News release: NORTH BAY, ON – Dialing-in North Bay residents to a city-wide teleconference town hall on October 22, aimed at mounting a community campaign against drastic bed, service and care cuts at the regional hospital, will happen over two calls this Thursday night, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said today.
“We want to reach as many people in the community as possible. So we decided that talking to our friends and neighbours about joining together to get better provincial funding for our hospital and stopping this spiral of care cuts, is best done over two teleconference town halls,” says Shawn Shank, president of CUPE 139.
The first teleconference call is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. It will be immediately followed by a second call, at 7:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Residents will be asked if they want to participate on the town hall, and if yes, they can connect directly. Those residents who only have a mobile (cell phone) number, can join only on the 6:30 p.m. teleconference by pre-registering as a VIP at: https://vekeo.com/ontariocouncilhospitalunions. They will be contacted directly, then transferred to the town hall along with thousands of other North Bay residents.
CUPE National president, Paul Moist and Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) director, Natalie Mehra, will join Shank on both teleconference town halls.
North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) was built as a public-private-partnership (P3) with less hospital bed capacity than the two existing area hospitals. Under a punitive provincial funding model, that each year results in millions of dollars less than the hospital needs just to maintain beds, services and staff, NBRHC has been forced to make patient care and bed cuts.
“There is good reason to think the hospital has higher operating costs because of its partnership with the private sector for the construction and maintenance of the building. Also, there's a higher rate of chronic illness in the north. People here, on average, are also older than elsewhere in Ontario. It’s harmful to patients that the province does not recognize that these key factors impact on the hospital’s ability to provide quality care and give the additional funding the hospital clearly needs,” says Moist.
Already there is broad support for better funding for the hospital. Following the last round of service and staff cuts in mid-September, North Bay city council supported a motion to lobby the province for changes to how hospitals are funded. Many in the community have signed a postcard directed to the Ontario health minister, Eric Hoskins, calling for adequate funding for the local hospital. A community rally is also planned in North Bay for the end of November.
For this year alone, provincial underfunding for NBRHC amounts to $14 million. The hospital announced service and care cuts last month. 158 full-time equivalent jobs will be slashed with the possibility of another 50 to be cut if the province doesn't inject funding immediately. These cuts are in addition to the 196 positions eliminated over several years and the closure of 30 medical and mental health hospital beds.