Coali­tion hopes to build sup­port, stop cuts

‘What is it go­ing to take to stop (hos­pi­tal) cuts here?’


The On­tario Health Coali­tion wants Sud­buri­ans to come out Mon­day to sup­port their neigh­bours and their hos­pi­tal.

The coali­tion is host­ing a town hall on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Steel­work­ers’ Hall, 66 Brady St., with the ul­ti­mate aim of stop­ping job cuts at Health Sciences North.

Natalie Mehra, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the On­tario Health Coali­tion, said Fri­day more than 100 full-time equiv­a­lent nurses, sup­port staff and health care pro­fes­sion­als, from across dozens of de­part­ments, are be­ing cut at HSN.

“The ca­pac­ity at the hos­pi­tal has been dra­mat­i­cally down­sized for decades now,” she said. “You are at a point in this com­mu­nity where you don’t have enough ca­pac­ity as it ex­ists to pro­vide for the needs of the pop­u­la­tion. I was shocked to hear the scope of the cuts that are pro­posed.”

Mehra said there is prece­dence. Sud­bury’s doc­tors, nurses and cit­i­zens have pushed back against the prov­ince be­fore, with some suc­cess.

“We can do it again,” she said. “We have done it all across On­tario.” The cuts run deep at HSN. Michelle Beaudry, bar­gain­ing unit pres­i­dent for the ONA paramed­i­cal group, said her mem­bers have suf­fered 35 job losses “and we’ve lost nu­mer­ous hours of part­time work.” The areas im­pacted in­clude the imag­ing depart­ment (X-ray, MRI, CT and ul­tra­sound), as well as the lab and the phar­macy.

“The nurses have lost more than 70 po­si­tions, which means you’re go­ing to be short more than 127,000 hours ev­ery year, of nurs­ing care,” Beaudry said. “How can we do this with those cuts?”

Those 70 po­si­tions rep­re­sent about 5.6 per cent of the num­ber of reg­is­tered nurses at HSN.

Part of the prob­lem, Beaudry said, is that hos­pi­tal stays are length­ened — for ex­am­ple, be­cause pa­tients are wait­ing for tests or lab re­sults — which ex­ac­er­bates over­crowd­ing prob­lems and can lead to in­creased in­ci­dences of noso­co­mial in­fec­tions.

“We’re very fear­ful be­cause our hos­pi­tal is al­ways run­ning at 110 per cent or higher (ca­pac­ity), which means there’s less ac­cess to qual­ity pa­tient care be­cause the staff can’t man­age that num­ber of peo­ple,” Beaudry said. “Our di­ag­nos­tic and ther­a­peu­tic ser­vices are now over­whelmed, which means you’re not get­ting qual­ity care at our hos­pi­tal.”

At 110 per cent ca­pac­ity, Mehra said that means ev­ery bed is full. There are no spa­ces avail­able.

“Peo­ple are lined up on stretch­ers and in hall­ways and so forth, be­cause the hos­pi­tal is run­ning full and over full at all times,” she said.

Dot Klein, head of the lo­cal chap­ter of the coali­tion, said there have also been mas­sive cuts to men­tal health care ser­vices, as well as other cuts that will neg­a­tively im­pact chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

“So far, the health care cuts in­clude $335 mil­lion in cuts from planned men­tal health fund­ing, provin­cially,” she said. “Provin­cially, they’re also rolling back OHIP cov­er­age with sick chil­dren, who will have to seek pri­vate cov­er­age for their med­i­ca­tions.”

Klein also said the safe in­jec­tion site that was promised to Sud­bury has been put on hold.

She said res­i­dents need to come to­gether to tell Premier Doug Ford, loudly, that Sud­buri­ans will not stand for more cuts.

“As a com­mu­nity we must tell Premier Ford and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment that this is not ac­cept­able,” she said. “We must stand to­gether and voice a strong, uni­fied voice that we do not want our pub­lic ser­vices and health care cut. And we don’t want our pub­lic ser­vices and health care pri­va­tized — that’s where it’s go­ing.”

Dave Shele­fontiuk, pres­i­dent of CUPE Lo­cal 1623, said his mem­bers have been no­ti­fied of more than 50 cuts, which will af­fect sup­port staff, such as house­keep­ers, porters, reg­is­tered prac­ti­cal nurses and per­sonal sup­port work­ers.

De­spite the fact hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tors have said there will be no im­pact on pa­tient care, Shele­fontiuk said that is not true.

“There is im­pact on pa­tient care,” he said. “Since March, our bar­gain­ing units, cler­i­cal and ser­vices com­bined, have (been cut) by 52 full-time equiv­a­lents. That’s more than 100,000 hours re­duc­tion this year, since March.”

When em­ploy­ees take time off or re­tire, they are not be­ing re­placed, Shele­fontiuk said. That means an in­creased work­load for re­main­ing work­ers. For ex­am­ple, Shele­fontiuk said porters rou­tinely run two to three hours be­hind. PSWs are also re­spon­si­ble for the care of an in­creased num­ber of peo­ple, which means pa­tients are not fed or bathed in a timely man­ner.

“If it’s not the dirt­i­est, it’s likely one of the dirt­i­est hos­pi­tals in On­tario now,” he said. “Be­cause of re­duc­tions to the house­keep­ing staff. We have surg­eries be­ing can­celled be­cause of the is­sues with the li­nen.”

Shele­fontiuk said the Ford gov­ern­ment will “need to step up” and keep its prom­ises.

Not all the cuts have been im­ple­mented, Mehra said. The bar­gain­ing units get sev­eral months no­tice, so the cuts will be rolling out over the next few months.

In ad­di­tion to cuts, staff mem­bers are be­ing shuf­fled around and moved from one po­si­tion to an­other. That could also im­pinge on pa­tient care, Beaudry said. For ex­am­ple, a so­cial worker who has spent 20 years work­ing with adults may be re­as­signed to the chil­dren’s ward. He or she will have the aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions re­quired for the job, but will un­doubt­edly lack the ex­pe­ri­ence that comes from work­ing in the field.

“If I have to leave the adult pop­u­la­tion to work in pe­di­atrics, it’s not the same,” she said. Klein said On­tario has fewer nurses per capita than any other prov­ince and Mehra said the sit­u­a­tion in On­tario is bleak, much more so than in other provinces or in other parts of the global north.

“No one has ever cut their hos­pi­tals this much — nowhere in this coun­try and nowhere in the de­vel­oped world,” she said. “There’s no ju­ris­dic­tion that runs their hos­pi­tals this way. It’s not safe. Eighty per cent is the tar­get in Eu­rope; there’s a de­bate on whether it should be 80 or 85 per cent they should run hos­pi­tals at. If you run them higher than that, you get back­logs in the emer­gency depart­ment and am­bu­lances can’t off-load. You need time to clean the rooms prop­erly be­tween pa­tients. Euro­pean gov­ern­ments have all brought down oc­cu­pancy rates to try to bring down hos­pi­tal-ac­quired in­fec­tion rates and to pro­tect peo­ple’s safety. In On­tario, we’re run­ning at lev­els that are lit­er­ally un­heard of any­where. It’s bizarre.”

Mehra said she was shocked to learn of an­other round of cuts at HSN, es­pe­cially since the hos­pi­tal has al­ready seen job losses.

“What is it go­ing to take to stop the cuts here? And how far do they ac­tu­ally in­tend to cut this hos­pi­tal? You can­not op­er­ate the way it is right now,” Mehra said. “It’s just out­ra­geous.”


Natalie Mehra, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the On­tario Health Coali­tion, makes a point at a press con­fer­ence in Sud­bury, Ont. on Fri­day No­vem­ber 9, 2018.

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