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CORNWALL, Ont. Yesterday night, concerned citizens of the Cornwall area, members of the Ontario Coalition of Hospital Unions (OCHU CUPE) and other health care professionals, came together at the Royal Canadian Air Force building to discuss the regional laboratories project, as well as other changes affecting health services in Ontario and at their local hospital. Diane Morin, president of CUPE local 7811, which represents employees at the Cornwall Community Hospital, chaired the meeting.
Doug Allan, CUPE researcher, explained how Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) have been put in place to manage cuts in funding for hospitals by, among other things, reducing the range of services provided by each hospital. He also reminded everyone that the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA), was initially promising not to cut jobs and to maintain laboratory technicians and support staff in the employment of their respective hospitals. But they are now moving towards a single employer model and the centralization of testing in one or two hospitals for the whole Champlain LHIN area, which goes from Cornwall to Pembroke. The plan from EORLA is to reduce staffing by 10 per cent, but increase the management budget by $1 million. He added This project is wrong from a public health perspective and is not even supposed to generate significant savings, according to its promoters. Each hospital in the region has been forced to sign an agreement with the LHIN including an acceptance of the EORLA restructuring model, which includes a reform of the EORLA board putting hospital representatives in a minority.
This would mean that most hospitals in the region would only collect samples and send them to Ottawa or to private labs, at a higher cost. This would lead to the loss of high skilled jobs in those areas and more delays in obtaining test results for patients.
Louis Rodriguez, OCHU vice-president gave the example of the supply chain regional corporation Plexus, in Toronto, as a model for saving money by coordinating some activities at the regional level, with no private partner and no loss of jobs. He proposed that the communities affected by that project should oppose it, if they don’t want to lose those jobs and those hospital services.
The participants mentioned that some tests that used to be performed in Cornwall have already been sent to Ottawa, like the tests for thyroid problems and prostate cancer, for example. They also identified their local hospital as the one most affected by this restructuring, since their lab is still performing a wide variety of tests.
They also discussed how in unusual circumstances, like an ice storm, the testing may not be possible for a long period. Also, patients could be administered inappropriate treatments while doctors are awaiting lab results. People in the community need to know what is likely to happen to them if that centralizing of services in Ottawa goes through.
The Ontario Coalition of Hospital Unions (OCHU) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) will continue their campaign aimed at convincing the LHIN and EORLA to abandon that project, in alliance with any individuals and groups who share that goal.
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