Londoners to protest health-care funding cuts at Queen’s Park

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A Queen’s Park protest over health-care funding cuts will have a heavy London presence. 

Two busloads of protesters left the city early Thursday for a rally against the government expected to draw thousands, said Peter Bergmanis, co-chairperson of the London Health Care Coalition, an advocacy group.

“We want to bring the public’s attention to government destabilizing our hospital system,” he said. “Services are not being adequately funded.”

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Joining the London contingent were people from as far away as Sarnia. 

“Wait lists grow and surgical suites can be kept open and we wonder how there is money for private clinics but not our hospitals,” Bergmanis said. “We don’t have staff to run facilities now.”

Surgery and emergency room waits remain a problem, he added.

The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) had a presence at the rally and on the London buses. It’s estimated there’s a shortage of about 30,000 nurses across Ontario.

“We’re bringing awareness to protect public health care. It’s no secret we’re fighting the good fight to make sure there’s the best possible care and access,” said Teresa Grover, a nurse at St. Joseph’s in London and local ONA bargaining unit president.

The Health Quality Ontario website reported that in March average emergency room wait times for patients not admitted to hospital ranged up to 4.5 hours on average across the province, and up to 3.2 hours at London Health Sciences Centre.

“Public health is a right and we want to show the Ontario government we want to protect it. That’s why we’re here,” said Michelle Black, a nurse and ONA rep at London Health Sciences Centre.

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In August, Ontario’s independent Financial Accountability Office reported the province spent $1.7 billion less than planned on health care in 2022-23 as rural and small-town hospitals struggled with staff shortages that forced some periodic emergency room closings.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government had planned to spend more than $194 billion on all programs and fell short by $7.2 billion or 3.7 per cent, rolling out a total of $187.1 billion.

In a recent statement, a spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones said Ontario is making “record investments” in health care, with more than $85 billion in 2024 alone.

That includes boosting hospital spending by four per cent for the second year in a row, the statement said, and spending $44 million to “help emergency departments stay open,” including at smaller and rural hospitals.

In February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Ottawa was giving Ontario $3.1 billion in funding over the next three years to ease the province’s health-care crisis. That’s Ontario’s share of the $200-billion health accord offered to the provinces last year.

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