Come together: OCHU / CUPE Locals protest in Peterborough. Jeff Leal must defend hospital

Lots of fun yesterday at the OCHU/CUPE rally in defense of the Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC), with a major focus on local Liberal MPP Jeff Leal. The rally called on him to start to fight for the local hospital, rather than the cuts.

The so-called "Hospital Improvement Plan"  cuts 12 medical beds, along with 8 surgical beds, 4 critical care beds, and 4 beds for women and children.  The plan also envisages closing 32 beds at Christmas and March break, and closing 16 beds during 4 summer weeks.  Other cuts include: driving down the length of stay, reduced diagnostic testing, reduced CT scan staffing (despite already having CT wait times well over the provincial target), reductions in the neuro and breathing clinic, reductions in hospital cleaning staff, and reductions in dietary staff.

As well, in January, 24 medical beds were reduced to "sub-acute" beds.  Eight other sub-acute beds are being created. But as these sub-acute beds are the targets of cuts all across Ontario, their future is pretty dodgy.

The hospital will lose 182.3 "full time equivalent" positions (283 actual jobs), making this the biggest hospital cutback in the province for years.   

Among the speakers was Candace Rennick, who hails from Peterborough and who is secretary treasurer of CUPE Ontario. She told the protest about a loved one who was treated in a hallway of the Peterborough hospital for five days. And that was before the bed cuts. Her loved one was forced to carry out all the activities of living in a hallway for five days -- while sick.  Rennick angrily dismissed the idea of more bed cuts.

About 800 OCHU / CUPE members from all over southern Ontario and the near north joined the rally (and the BBQ that followed). Laurie Hatton, recording secretary of CUPE Local 1943 (at Peterborough Regional Health Centre) noted her “appreciation to all the locals that assisted and participated in this demonstration.” Laurie added, “For many of my members this was their first rally and what a great way to be introduced to the CUPE family.”
The picture above features Roy Brady and the Peterborough Health Coalition, which joined in and supported the rally.

PRHC spokesman Jonathan Bennett disputed that the plan is affecting quality of care. "We certainly don't believe so," he said, adding that "it's our responsibility to balance the books."

Another hospital rally in Toronto is planned soon. 

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