Health top pri­or­ity: West

Col­umn: Get­ting ‘proper’ fund­ing for Health Sciences North is goal for 2019, Sud­bury MPP writes

The Sudbury Star - - NEWS - JAMIE WEST GUEST COL­UMN Jamie West is the NDP MPP for Sud­bury.

Be­ing the Mem­ber of Pro­vin­cial Par­lia­ment for the rid­ing of Sud­bury is a priv­i­lege and I am proud to rep­re­sent the city that has al­ways been my home. In the six months since I was elected, I have learned so much about the many is­sues im­pact­ing our com­mu­nity, like hall­way medicine and cuts to Fran­co­phone ser­vices.

I want to thank ev­ery­one who took the time to reach out to me. With the New Year upon us, I have been re­flect­ing on what work we got done on the is­sues that mat­ter most to the peo­ple of Sud­bury, and what work lies ahead in 2019.

The sit­u­a­tion at Health Sciences North (HSN) is crit­i­cal. The On­tario Health Coali­tion re­ported that HSN is of­ten run­ning 10 per cent be­yond ca­pac­ity. This means that peo­ple are fre­quently left wait­ing on stretch­ers for a bed.

More than a decade of un­der­fund­ing un­der the Lib­er­als cre­ated this un­nec­es­sary cri­sis. Now, the Doug Ford govern­ment is plan­ning deep cuts to cru­cial ser­vices. This will only make things worse.

On a per-pa­tient ba­sis, HSN’s fund­ing is al­ready lower than the rest of the prov­ince. As a re­sult of chronic un­der­fund­ing, HSN cur­rently has an $11 mil­lion deficit. To bal­ance the books, the hos­pi­tal has been forced to cut 60.5 nurs­ing po­si­tions, and con­sid­ered claw­ing back life-sav­ing pro­grams. Ul­ti­mately, staff has been re­quired to do more and more with less and less.

I have been hon­oured to reg­u­larly present pe­ti­tions in the leg­is­la­ture, call­ing on the govern­ment to prop­erly fund HSN, to pre­vent cuts to the Breast Screen­ing As­sess­ment Clinic at HSN. When HSN con­tem­plated mov­ing sur­gi­cal con­sul­ta­tions com­pletely off-site, I was in­spired by the many Sud­buri­ans who or­ga­nized, spoke up and ral­lied to pro­tect our Breast Screen­ing As­sess­ment Clinic. Fol­low­ing our vo­cal com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion, the hos­pi­tal has de­cided to con­tinue on-site sur­gi­cal con­sul­ta­tions on a re­duced sched­ule.

In Novem­ber, I hosted a com­mu­nity town hall on the opi­oid cri­sis. Our guest speak­ers were in­cred­i­bly help­ful and in­for­ma­tive, and the at­ten­dees posed thought­ful ques­tions. These dis­cus­sions will help in­form the Com­mu­nity Drug Strat­egy’s re­search into whether Sud­bury should have a su­per­vised in­jec­tion site.

The pos­i­tive re­sponse to this town hall was in­cred­i­ble: there were so many speak­ers who wanted to share their knowl­edge, and so many peo­ple at­tended that it was stand­in­groom only. I was very en­cour­aged by the gen­uine in­ter­est in im­prov­ing the health and safety of ev­ery­one in our com­mu­nity. I plan to sched­ule an­other town hall early in 2019 to dis­cuss this cri­sis fur­ther.

As I promised dur­ing the cam­paign, I am com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing my abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate in French. I have started weekly tu­tor­ing; I am prac­tis­ing with my wife and chil­dren (who are bilin­gual); and I hope to soon be able speak to more of my con­stituents dans leur langue mater­nelle.

Fol­low­ing Doug Ford’s an­nounce­ment that On­tario’s in­de­pen­dent French Lan­guage Ser­vices Com­mis­sioner and French lan­guage univer­sity would be axed, I joined over 700 Sud­buri­ans out­side my com­mu­nity of­fice for a rally to cel­e­brate the Fran­co­phone cul­ture and to op­pose these harm­ful cuts. I will con­tinue to call on the govern­ment to re­spect the con­sti­tu­tional rights of Franco-On­tar­i­ans.

While work­ers strug­gle to make ends meet, we have seen Doug Ford and the Tories pri­or­i­tize favours to in­sid­ers and the big­gest bosses in the prov­ince. In my role as the Labour Critic for the Of­fi­cial Op­po­si­tion, I worked with my NDP col­leagues to op­pose Bill 47.

This harm­ful leg­is­la­tion clawed back work­ers’ hard-earned rights and ba­sic ben­e­fits. It cut paid sick days; re­warded em­ploy­ers for hir­ing tem­po­rary, part-time staff; and ripped money from the pock­ets of the low­est paid work­ers in the prov­ince who were count­ing on a $15 min­i­mum wage.

We could have used this op­por­tu­nity to im­prove em­ploy­ment leg­is­la­tion for em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees. How­ever, this bill was rammed through by the Con­ser­va­tives us­ing time al­lo­ca­tion, which re­stricts time for de­bate, dep­u­ta­tions, and amend­ments. Thou­sands of work­ers and em­ploy­ers, from across On­tario, spoke up about the far-reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions of this re­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion. I was proud to help en­sure their voices would not be si­lenced.

In my first six months as MPP I spent a lot of time at Queen’s Park. Doug Ford called us back for emergency ses­sions three times: twice in the sum­mer (to de­bate buck-a-beer and the size of Toronto’s city coun­cil), and once in the win­ter (to de­bate whether the premier could leg­is­late power work­ers back to work three weeks be­fore a pos­si­ble strike).

In 2019, I want to spend more time work­ing for and with the peo­ple of Sud­bury on Sud­bury’s is­sues to get things done. I want to con­tinue meet­ing with busi­nesses, or­ga­ni­za­tions and con­stituents. I also look for­ward to par­tic­i­pat­ing in more “Take your MPP to Work” op­por­tu­ni­ties – where I join you in your work­place and learn more about your or­ga­ni­za­tion or busi­ness.

I have heard from many of you con­cerned with the di­rec­tion On­tario is headed in. To­gether, we can make life bet­ter for peo­ple in our com­mu­nity. It’s more im­por­tant than ever that we stand up for each other, and keep fight­ing for lo­cal is­sues that re­ally mat­ter to our rid­ing. We will not be dragged back­wards by the Ford Con­ser­va­tives. To­gether, we can make 2019 bet­ter for ev­ery­one in our com­mu­nity.

JOHN LAPPA/SUD­BURY STAR/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Then Sud­bury MPP-elect Jamie West ad­dresses sup­port­ers at a cel­e­bra­tion for the NDP can­di­date in Sud­bury, Ont. on Thursday June 7, 2018.

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