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SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The union representing 253 health care workers at Sault Ste. Marie’s Group Health Centre is fighting cuts and layoffs at the Centre, where management has already cut important services including programs to treat communication disorders like autism, counseling, vision and eye care.
“The Centre seems to be leaving patients high and dry,” said Gayle Phillips, president of Local 894 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “Many of the services will be difficult to access elsewhere at the same cost, and it looks like the cuts are being pushed through without regard for the consequences to people in our community who rely on these services. Wait times for these services will increase for everyone.”
CUPE has filed grievances and plans to meet with local politicians to discuss ways to fight the cuts and mitigate the loss of services. Services provided at the Centre include audiology, chiropody, diagnostic imaging, family health nurses, injection clinic, laboratory, nutrition services, pharmacy, phototherapy, physical therapy, primary care, same day appointment clinic, specialty care, surgery and other services. The termination of communication disorders, counseling, vision and eye care, and other programs was abruptly ordered by interim CEO Grant Walsh, to ‘get finances in order’.
“Services are being eliminated and patients are forced to find them elsewhere” said CUPE National Representative Laura Delhenty. “It’s not fair to staff, patients or the community, and we have many questions about funding or under-funding that have not been answered – all we know is there’s radical surgery being performed on this important community health facility, and people are going to lose access to quality care.”
“Staff have received layoff notices, and patients are told that services are ending, but I see no evidence of a plan to minimize disruption or chaos at the centre,” said Delhenty. “The cuts seem arbitrary and no alternative solutions have been looked at as far as I can tell.”
“Our members provide excellent community health services the people of Sault Ste. Marie and area have relied on for 50 years,” said Phillips. “We encourage affected patients and members of the community to contact their MPP and local politicians to stop the cuts.”
For further information, please contact:
Laura Delhenty, CUPE National Representative: 705-949-6221, 705-987-3203 (mobile)
Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications: 416-292-3999, 416-993-1063 (mobile)