"People in North Bay are losing here," said President of CUPE Local 139 Shawn Shank. "It's not just about the staff."
CUPE says another round of bed cuts and program closures at North Bay's hospital will devastate patient care, and the union is making plans to fight back. The union says with the prospect of yet another round of significant bed and program closures looming at North Bay Regional Health – up to 60 beds may be cut – front line hospital staff are readying to mobilize the community to fight to keep the beds open and ensure patients get the hospital care they need at the local hospital.
"Following the deep cuts to the mental health program last year, further bed cuts will leave North Bay and the surrounding communities with significant problems accessing mental health and acute care hospital services," says The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 139, and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), the hospital division of CUPE.
Shank says a protest rally is planned for next Thursday over the lunch hour on College Drive to drive home the need to save the beds. Shank expects 150 people will take part, including a busload of hospital workers from Sudbury.
"This is not a fight against the present hospital administration, absolutely not," added Shank. "We're lobbying the Wynne government to give us money to keep the hospital beds open."
Shank says the union heard about the cuts last week from hospital administration.
OCHU’s Michael Hurley says cutting upward of 60 beds will be devastating for the community, and is calling on Nipissing MPP Vic Fideli to help stop the cuts.
In 1995/96, there were a total of 587 beds at the various North Bay hospital sites. Today the NBRHC, which was built under a P3 (public-private-partnership) model, reports a total of 420 beds. That’s 40 per cent less beds - a cut of 167 beds at the hospital today.
If another 60 beds are cut, the hospital will be down to 360 beds. That’s 63 per cent less bed capacity than the hospital had in 1996.