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KINGSTON, ON – Two busloads of Kingston-area workers will join a mass rally in Niagara-on-the-Lake Thursday, where provincial and territorial premiers are meeting to discuss a new federal Health Accord. Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), they will meet other CUPE Ontario members and community groups for a mass rally outside the premiers’ meeting.
“We’re losing hospital beds in communities across the province. The $15 million cut to Quinte Health Care means losing almost half the hospital beds in Picton and one-sixth of the beds in Trenton,” says Louis Rodrigues, president of CUPE Local 1974, representing workers at Kingston General Hospital. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg. For years, provincial and federal governments have been putting the squeeze on health care. They need to stop squeezing and start saving public health care.”
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Rodrigues and the Kingston workers will join with hundreds of CUPE Ontario members and people from all walks of life for a rally to defend public health care. Over the last 23 years, Ontario has lost 18,500 hospital beds, according to the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), which is organizing the rally.
“Public health care is something every Ontarian cares about. For years, budgets have been squeezed while the population grows. As a result, communities across the province are losing hospital beds, emergency rooms are closing, and people are being pushed out of hospitals and into already overburdened long-term care and home care,” says
Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “It is beyond disappointing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not share our commitment to public health care. He’s not even bothering to show up at this meeting.”
This week is the final Council of the Federation meeting before the federal Health Accord expires in 2014. The Accord sets out how health care funding flows from the federal government to the provinces and territories.
The rally is part of two days of workshops and political action. Participants will include CUPE National President
Paul Moist, OHC Director Natalie Mehra, Council of Canadians Chair Maude Barlow, Glendon School of Public & International Affairs Director Alex Himelfarb, and many others.
In December 2011, the Harper government announced plans to cut $36 billion from federal health care transfers to the provinces once the Accord expires in 2014. The federal government has also cut health care for refugees and other groups and walked away from a national pharmacare program that would have provided prescription drug coverage to all Canadians.
“Ontario spends less on health care than any other province,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) and CUPE Ontario first vice-president. “Health care needs stable and adequate funding. Stephen Harper should have come to this meeting, and I urge him to sit down for a serious discussion with premiers and other health care leaders about the future of public health care.”
CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with more than 240,000 members providing quality public services across the province. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards and universities.
For more information, please contact:
Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316