By Wayne Gates
Over the past six years, the provincial government has increased spending on health care in the Niagara Region by 42 per cent.
The question today is where did it go? It obviously didn’t improve quality!
This increase has instead produced closures of beds, programs, and operating and emergency rooms. It has resulted in staff layoffs and buyouts. It is leading to the closure of the GNGH’s maternity ward. How can the Honeymoon Capital of the world not have a maternity ward?
Here are a few troubling facts:
· Our emergency room wait times far exceed the provincial average.
· Surgeries are being delayed and even cancelled. Witness last week when local surgeons complained about the postponement of serious cancer surgeries.
· More beds are being closed next month, even at a time when we need MORE beds, not less!
· The death rate in Niagara exceeds the provincial average by 36 per cent. We must all question the leadership of the Niagara Health System.
The NHS has a capital deficit of over $100 million. It has an operating deficit of $18.8 million which is the highest in the province.
A good example of the NHS’s mismanagement is their decision to close the emergency rooms in Fort Erie and Port Colborne. They said that this would save them over $2 million each year. Instead, it has cost over $3 million for the extra ambulance services required to transport southern tier residents to the other hospitals. Does this make any sense?
The citizens of Niagara must demand that their hard earned tax dollars go towards the best quality health care possible. Instead, it is going to pay for the six-figure salaries of upper management, for operating the unelected Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), and for the hiring of high-priced consultants.
Make no mistake about it! Despite the best efforts of our front-line health care workers, citizens in Niagara have died and will continue to die unnecessarily because of the misguided decisions made by the NHS, the LHIN and the provincial government.
It is time that we all come together to fight for a health care system that properly serves the citizens of Niagara.
(Wayne Gates is president of the Canadian Auto Workers’ Niagara Local 199 and a long-time advocate for social justice in the region.)
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