By Frank Giorno
Many Ontarians headed south during March break, but not Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader, who instead embarked on a tour of Northern Ontario to bring her message of change for the better to Kapuskasing and Timmins, Ontario.
Horwath was in Kapuskasing, Monday night after a five-hour delayed Air Canada Flight. In Kapuskasing, Horwath addressed NDP members of the newly created Mushkegowuk Riding, meeting that night to select their candidate for the June 7, 2018.
Guy Bourgouin, a union president, and workers’ rights activist, was nominated to represent the new Mushkegowuk riding in the June provincial election.
Tuesday morning, Horwath accompanied by veteran NDP MPP Gillies Bisson, from Timmins-James Bay riding met with the CEO of Timmins and District Hospital to listen to challenges being faced by northern hospitals.
They later met with Timmins media and faced a range of questions pertinent to Ontario North.
Horwath and NDP MPP Gilles Bisson met with the Timmins and District Hospital (TADH) CEO Blaise MacNeil, Tuesday, to examine first- hand the overcrowded conditions at the hospital, and to discuss action needed address the issue after decades of cuts and budget freezes by the Liberal and Conservative governments.
“We have an overcrowding crisis across the province, and Timmins is one of the many hospitals that has been cut and shortchanged by the Wynne Liberals,” said Horwath. “The ER here is seeing double the number of patients it was designed to see. Staff are doing their absolute best, but it’s a struggle to keep up.
“It’s been too many years of choosing between two parties that do nothing but cut hospital budgets, and too many years of governments that ignore the North.”
TADH CEO Blaise MacNeil, told Horwath, the hospital is facing a $4.5 million deficit for the coming year, and does not receive enough yearly base funding to keep up with maintenance or the number of patients coming in.
Following her tour of the hospital, Horwath said, the hospital’s 25-year-old ER was built to support 20,000 visits per year, but now is receiving twice that per year; a leak in the roof has forced the hospital to close beds, including five beds in the maternity ward.
“What I have to say is that the people of Timmins deserve so much better for their hospital,” Horwath said. “Every Ontarian deserves better from what they are seeing from the Wynne Liberals.”
Horwath said she is committed to predictable hospital funding that keeps up with inflation, population growth and the unique needs of northern communities.
“For too long people of Timmins and across Ontario have been forced to settle for less, they have been forced to settle for overcrowding and underfunding for their hospitals, cuts to healthcare, long wait times to get the care you need,” said Horwath.
“The last Conservative government closed 28 hospitals and fired 6,000 nurses. The Liberals had 15 years to fix this, but instead, Kathleen Wynne has made it worse with budget freezes and further cuts – It’s time for something completely different in Ontario,” said Horwath. “It’s time to listen to everyday Ontario families. Change for the better means stopping the cuts, stopping the layoffs and investing in care again, so families can count on it — without the long waits.”
Gilles Bisson, the MPP who has represented the Timmins area for over 20 years says access to health care is a top concern in his region.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear from family after family that has been let down when it comes to health care,” said Bisson.
“I think Kathleen Wynne’s cuts have been wrongheaded, and I’m completely disgusted to hear Doug Ford say it’s time to make even deeper cuts to services we count on. He says $6.1 billion in cuts doesn’t go far enough – and for our hospitals, and our kids’ schools and our northern highways, that’s a deeply troubling statement.”
In addition, Horwath was critical of the lack of funding in long-term-care resulting in a shortage of long-term care beds forcing some to remain in hospital rather than being transferred to a long-term care facility.
In addition to Horwath’s hospital funding commitment, she and the NDP have committed to a plan that will bring Hydro One back into public hands and lower hydro bills by 30 per cent; and a plan for universal pharma care – a drug plan that covers everyone regardless of age or income.