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This is Completely Unacceptable for Our Community

by Wayne Gates MPP, FEO, June 8 2023, VOL. 4 ISSUE 21 

Last week, Niagara Health announced that Fort Erie’s Douglas Memorial Urgent Care Centre will now only be operating between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

This is the second time in just over a year that our Urgent Care Centre here in Fort Erie has been closed or reduced its hours.

Let me be crystal clear – this is completely unacceptable for our community, from Fort Erie to Crystal Beach, Ridgeway, & Stevensville.

I am severely concerned about the impact this will have on vulnerable people, on seniors – as we know, we have one of the largest population of seniors in Ontario right here in our community – and on approximately 8,000 people & families in Fort Erie who do not have primary care doctors and rely on Urgent Care for medical services.

This is part of a larger crisis we have in health care across the province of Ontario: we are seeing our public hospital system on the brink of collapse due to severe staffing shortages (worsened by Doug Ford’s wage cap law for nurses, Bill 124) and underfunding by the provincial government. 

We have nurses, PSWs and front-line workers crying in parking lots before heading into their shifts, and leaving the profession they love in droves, after three years of pandemic, increased workloads, staffing shortages, rising violence in hospitals, and the disrespect & financial impacts of Bill 124.

In Niagara and across the province, we are facing serious issues with ambulance offload delays at our hospital, with three of our hospitals here in Niagara consistently experiencing some of the longest offload times in Ontario. 

Emergency rooms and urgent care centres not just in Fort Erie, but across the province are closing & reducing services, while this government is underfunding our hospital system by $21 billion by 2028 – that’s billion, with a B.

And what is the Premier’s plan to deal with this crisis?

We are about to end the current legislative session, without a plan to resolve this crisis. As of the end of this week, he’ll be sending the legislature home until September.

This is wrong.

We should be here, working for the people of Ontario and addressing the urgent crisis in health care. And how do we solve this crisis?

It starts with the following.

Firstly, the government should drop the appeal on and immediately repeal Bill 124.

Bill 124 has held nurses’ wages below the rate of inflation, capping their total annual compensation increases to 1%. These are the same workers that have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, who risk their safety every single day to serve our communities and protect our health. The least we can do for them is ensure they are paid fairly for the work they do.

Once Bill 124 is gone, there is another Bill we need to address: Bill 60.

Bill 60 is the most dangerous Bill I have seen in my time at Queen’s Park. By expanding the role of private, for-profit services in our health care system, Bill 60 will worsen wait times and the staffing crisis we see in public health care. And while the Premier says patients will only have to pay with their OHIP card, we know that not only is private more expensive than the same procedure in a public setting but some patients, including seniors, are being extra-billed and surprised by hidden fees. We cannot allow this to expand and harm vulnerable seniors here in Niagara.

We then need to ensure we are utilizing our existing operating room capacity here in Niagara. We have operating rooms across the Niagara Region that we, as a community, could be using to deal with surgical backlogs without delays. Working together, we can make sure we get the funding and staffing we need right here in Niagara to make that a reality.  

As I head back to Niagara, health care is going to be my number one priority.

Just before this announcement from Niagara Health, the Ontario Health Coalition organized a historic referendum, both here in Fort Erie, and across the province of Ontario.

The volunteers with the Niagara Health Coalition, the local branch of the Ontario-wide organization, set up polling stations across our community – including outside of Douglas Memorial itself.  

The questions posed by the referendum was very clear: do we want more private, for-profit services replacing our publicly-funded, publicly-delivered health care, and here in Niagara, do we want to ensure all present Niagara hospital sites and services are protected?

The Niagara Health Coalition revealed the results of the vote last week. A total of 17,123 residents voted ‘No’ to privatization of our health care – and over 10,000 voted to protect existing hospitals and urgent care centres here in our community.

I want to thank the volunteers for organizing the referendum, and I want to thank the people in our community, including here in Fort Erie, for coming out and making their voices heard on this issue.

I will continue to work with all levels of government, the Ministry of Health, Niagara Health, local healthcare providers, and community groups & advocates to ensure Douglas Memorial remains open 24/7, that we expand access to family doctors for the people of Fort Erie, Crystal Beach, Ridgeway, & Stevensville, and that we protect public health care from the dangerous threat of cuts & privatization.

There are no upcoming events at this time.