Ontario’s NDP Leader Slams McGuinty Government On Diminishing Hospital Services In Niagara

By Doug Draper

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath came storming into south Niagara this week like a winter blizzard to slam the province’s Liberal government for letting emergency room services at hospitals in Fort Erie and Port Colborne die.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath and CAW Local 199 president Wayne Gates join area residents in front of beleaguered Fort Erie hospital site.

“The hardworking people of Niagara have the right to know that help will be there in a medical emergency or when a loved one gets sick,” said Horwath to a gathering of area residents outside Fort Erie’s Douglas Memorial Hospital. “The McGuinty Liberals found billions of dollars to provide a tax giveaway to some of Ontario’s richest corporations, but they’re closing down local emergency rooms. That’s wrong.”

The NDP leader’s trip to Fort Erie follows in the wake of growing calls by residents in the area and by one of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s own Liberal government members – Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor – for an investigation into the workings of the Niagara Health System, the decade-old agency created by the province’s former Conservative government and allowed to march on with the blessing of McGuinty and company to operate most of the hospitals across the Niagara region.

Horwath’s trip also follows in the wake of the death of 18-year-old Reilly Anzovino this past Boxing Day. The Fort Erie teen had to be rushed to the emergency room at the Welland hospital following a traffic accident on a Fort Erie stretch of Hwy. 3 and was pronounced dead on arrival. Many in the south end wonder if she might still be alive today if she could have been ambulanced to emergency rooms in either Fort Erie or Port Colborne.

The emergency rooms at those hospitals were closed and converted to “urgent care centres” last year by the NHS as it consolidates its restructures services under a controversial “Hospital Improvement Plan” that has received the blessing of the McGuinty government despite protests from many thousands of Niagara residents.

The NHS stresses that these urgent care centres will continue to accept about 95 per cent of the patients that were accepted at the now-closed emergency rooms. But the most life-threatening cases will now have to be taken to emergency rooms in Welland or Niagara Falls, and the Fort Erie teen apparently fell into that category.

“It’s time to get our priorities straight,” said Horwath as she stood on the steps of the Fort Erie hospital. “We can’t afford another round of corporate tax giveaways if it means losing local health services.”

Horwath noted that in recent months the NHS has announced the closure of 39 hospital beds, with 22 slated to close in Welland, 10 in Port Colborne and 7 in Fort Erie. The cuts follow the closure of local emergency rooms in Fort Erie and Port Colborne.

“First they cut the ER and cancelled surgeries, and now they’re removing hospital beds,” said Horwath. “Is this the legacy Dalton McGuinty plans to leave when it comes to health care in Ontario.”

Among those in the gathering was Kim Craitor, a Liberal MPP whose Niagara Falls riding includes Fort Erie. He has been a vocal critic of the NHS when it has come to cutting hospital services in Niagara Falls and more southern communities of the region. And he told reporters he attended the gathering as a supporter of the concerns of his local constituents.

Sue Salzer, head of the Yellow Shirt Brigade, a group of south Niagara residents fighting to save hospital services, told Niagara At Large that “no one felt the cold blowing off Lake Erie as we listened to NDP leader Andrea Horwath share with us a mutual frustration of a Niagara Health System gone wrong.”

“It was heart warming to have Kim Craitor and (Fort Erie) Mayor Doug Martin attend the rally in a true indication that concern for accessible health care in our communities is bi-partisan and transcends all political boundaries. With such strong support from our political leaders, there must be a light at the end of this very long tunnel.”

Niagara At Large includes here a transcript of NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s address to the Tuesday, Jan. 12 gathering of residents in front of the Fort Erie  hospital.

“Dalton McGuinty says he’s not making cuts to health care in Ontario. But I challenge him to come to Fort Erie and say that. The people of this community know better.
 
I don’t need to remind anyone here that these cuts come on the heels of the closure of two local emergency rooms. We all know what these cuts mean: they mean we’re losing access to good-quality health care close to home. These cuts mean that we don’t have the assurance that help will be there when we need it, when a loved one gets sick or during an emergency. That’s not right.
 
The impact on neighboring hospitals as a result of the ER closures has been staggering, but the government had no plan to deal with the spike. The Niagara Falls and Welland hospitals had to cancel all elective surgery this winter due to the burden of H1N1 because there was no relief in the system.
 
Four doctors resigned from the Niagara Falls hospital because of the mess. Douglas Memorial Hospital has lost its operating rooms. And still, we have no indication when the Liberals’ cuts will stop.
 
You can tell what a politician’s priorities are by the choices they make, and we think Dalton McGuinty has made some poor choices. Why is it that Dalton McGuinty has millions of dollars for high-priced health consultants, but not for the emergency room in Fort Erie? How come Dalton McGuinty has money to pay the bloated, six-figure salaries for health care bureaucrats, but he won’t spend the money to keep hospital beds in Niagara where they’re needed? How come Dalton McGuinty can find money to give a $2-billion tax giveaway to corporations, but he won’t invest in doctors and nurses right here?
 
It’s clear where the Liberals’ priorities are. Not on the side of hardworking Fort Erie families who don’t have access to the health care they deserve. Let’s put the people of Fort Erie first when it comes to spending our scarce health care dollars. Let’s not spend precious public dollars on another tax giveaway to some of the wealthiest corporations in Ontario.
 
We call on the McGuinty government to stop the cuts now. I’ve joined the OMA, local political leaders, community advocates and many others to demand an end to these cuts. Today, we raise our voices once again. The people of Niagara region deserve better.
 
We will continue to ensure your voices are heard at Queen’s Park.
 
Thank you.”

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8 responses to “Ontario’s NDP Leader Slams McGuinty Government On Diminishing Hospital Services In Niagara

  1. Here’s an interesting sidelight on the excellent Fort Erie hospital that has been dismembered by ON government bureaucrats through its lay-managers at the Niagara Health System:
    Way back in the 1970’s it (the Douglas Memorial Hospital) was considered good enough for teaching family practice residents from the University of Buffalo medical school. At that time, I had a triple faculty appointment over there, and I regularly brought these young men and women across the border in order for them to experience how a small town Emergency Department serves a ‘rural’ area. That was a unique setup – the very first time American student doctors came across the Niagara River in a group to learn from Canadian country doctors. In another way, too, it was an eye-opener. We all had to do some pretty major things ourselves, on our very own, right on the spot, on the instant, in that hospital, as there were no fancy specialists (vascular or neurosurgeons, etc.) right upstairs, immediately on tap, as there are in the big city hospitals. The MD postgrads learned a lot (as did we from them).
    So, that’s what’s been shut down over here in the boondocks.

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  2. All modern doctors are medical engineers. They solve or at least try to solve problems. They reap the rewards or are held liable. The bureaucrats at NHS are social engineers – they should solve problems, not create them. Years ago, when my cousin, a real Civil Engineer, was Commissioner of Buildings for the City of Toronto, he, personally, received every single complaint and subpoena (having to do with roads, subways, buildings) intended for the mayor and council. My cousin was named, symbolically of course, as the ‘culprit.’ It was a part of his job, albeit a stressful one. It was the proper legal way of doing things. Now I have a modest suggestion: every last legal complaint pertaining to health care in the Niagara Region should go right to the sources, to the personal faces of the designers and heads. For LHIN, that would be Ms J. Gledhill and for NHS, that would be CEO D. Sevenpifer. Go for it all you good people – and lawyers!

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  3. It’s only proper that the other doctors involved in that unique CanAm ER training program be given credit. Dr. Twidle, then ER chief, sanctioned it. Then, Drs. Brown, Whiting, Klisowsky, Docherty, Rutherford, Lau, Chen and Henry supervised the young American doctors. And it did not cost the taxpayer a penny; the young MDs came to learn and old ones taught them gratis. (In case the reader is wondering, all those old doctors are now gone, but for Dr. Henry, yes, the same one that NHS recently had arrested for protesting the demise of his own hospital.) At the end of each three-monthly rotation, I personally took everybody, ER nurses, young and old doctors, all-together to the then brand new Ming Te restaurant (now well-known to many Americans) for a feast. (And Ms Sevenpifer, NHS CEO, please take note, it wasn’t charged up to the taxpayer on some big corporate account.) This will be my ‘last post’ on health matters (for a while) as I’m now off to the funeral of an old friend.

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  4. The NHS prefers to overpay incompetent bureaucrats than provide adequate medical care for the people who live in Fort Erie & Port Colborne. Take a look on the Province of Ontario’s own site at the published “sunshine” list of staff in the NHS making over $100,000 per year. Sevenpifer makes about $335,000 PLUS benefits. Meanwhile this bunch are closing hospital beds, emergency rooms, reducing nursing staff, & spending small fortunes on “capital” improvements. They are a joke & the NHS needs to be replaced along with the LHINS & this provincial government. The conservatives & Hudak are not an option – Mike Harris started all this cost cutting of health services when he was premier. So I guess we have to look to Andrea Horvath & pray she isn’t just saying she opposes our emergency room closures to get our vote. The doctor shortage was created by the province when they didn’t provide funding for medical schools in the 80’s & 90’s. The nursing shortage is because the nurses are only hired part time or contract & still aren’t paid what they can make elsewhere. The NHS would rather pay bureaucrats like Sevenpifer to write reports on what a great job they are doing.

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  5. Mary McLelland-Papp

    The NHS prefers to overpay incompetent bureaucrats than provide adequate medical care for the people who live in Fort Erie and Port Colborne. Take a look on the Province of Ontario’s own site at the published “sunshine” list of staff in the NHS making over $100,000 per year. Sevenpifer makes about $335,000 PLUS benefits. Meanwhile this bunch are closing hospital beds, emergency rooms, reducing nursing staff, & spending small fortunes on “capital” improvements. They are a joke and the NHS needs to be replaced along with the LHINS & this provincial government. The Conservatives and Hudak are not an option – Mike Harris started all the cost cutting of health services when he was premier. So I guess we have to look to Andrea Horvath & pray she isn’t just saying she opposes our emergency room closures to get our vote. The doctor shortage was created by the province when they didn’t provide funding for medical schools in the 80’s & 90’s. The nursing shortage is because the nurses are only hired part time or contract and still aren’t paid what they can make elsewhere. It seems the NHS would rather pay bureaucrats like Sevenpifer to write reports on what a great job they are doing than hire the people that can actually deliver a quality health care service.

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  6. Do you know how many LAYERS of bureaucratic paper-pushers, lay-administrators, bean-counters and business ‘consultants’ are peering over the shoulders of each hard-working nurse and doctor in Niagara? COUNT. Immediately above is the layer of inept NHS dodos. Above that is the deaf LHIN. And over all that is the Ontario Ministry of Health itself. Also in there is OHIP. Then, over everything is the federal bunch. FIVE layers! Putting it mildly, it’s like an army with five inactive officers ordering around every single active front-line soldier. Is it any wonder that our once highly acclaimed Medicare is going broke while floundering on the job? I know what to do. Do you?

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  7. Bah Humbug

    Our Health system looks like a take-off of “The Christmas Carol”.

    Dalton McGuinty is Scrooge.

    When our Health plight is discussed, his answer is, “Bah Humbug”.

    “Are there no prisons?”

    “Are there no work-houses?”

    Prisoners get better and quicker health care then we do in Fort Erie.

    Long term care, at $54 a day, will put us all on welfare.

    We are told, “Pay or care for loved ones at home.”

    Scrooge said, “Decrease the surplus population.” This seems to be the master plan. If we cannot get to the hospital on time, or get medical attention when we get there, he will be decreasing the surplus population.

    The Ghost of Health Care past is the Douglas Memorial Hospital Board that ran our hospital in the black. Our local doctors saw us, treated us, sent us to hospital if needed, or to a specialist at a larger medical centre. We were happy.

    The Ghost of Christmas Present is Debbie Sevenpifer, and the NHS.

    We are forced to self-diagnose. Only bumps, cuts and tummy aches are seen at the local Urgent Care facility. Ambulances will not go to Fort Erie. We are forced to go to Niagara Falls, Welland or St. Catharines, and pray we will get there on time.

    The Ghost of Health Care Future is Juanita Gledhill, and the LHIN Board and the HIP plan. Our hospital will no longer be an Urgent Care. It will be a glorified filing cabinet, with storage for health records from across the region. (Many truck loads of files have already been stored there. Rooms that once held patients, are now filled with boxes.

    Equipment has been moved out, and records have been brought in.) Only a few if any Chronic Care beds will be there. They will be filled with people from across the region.

    Wake up Fort Erie.

    If Scrooge does not have a change of heart, our lives are at risk.

    This is a local election year. If our council can invest tax dollars in the race track, changing the sky-line of Crystal Beach, and a speedway, they can help keep the fight for the hospital as a priority. The deal that was arrived at in June is not as good as the paper it is written on. Pressure your local politicians. Make them stand up and be counted. Don’t vote for them, if they do not prove in the months ahead, that they care.

    When the provincial and federal elections come up, keep this in mind as well.

    Bah Humbug!!!!

    June Robinson

    846 Ridge Rd. N.

    Ridgeway, ON

    905-894-4967

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  8. The lay-manager business-types have turned our hospitals into nineteenth century sweatshops. In a recent study: “stress is highest” in workers in our shrunken hospitals. How on earth can THEY, the business twerps, ever be expected or counted on to fix it. They engineered it. Bring in a broom and sweep them all out. Then plead for the nurses and doctors to run hospitals and health care again. /wfh

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