THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Jan. 20, 2016) - As MPPs from all three political parties from the Ontario Legislature traveled to Thunder Bay for pre-budget hearings today, they were met with protests by patients, concerned residents and health care workers. The message was clear: stop the devastating cuts to - and privatization of - our local hospital services. The Ontario Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs has heard from community advocates who have made submissions to budget hearings for almost a decade warning that the cuts are harming patients. But the government is refusing to listen. This year, local health coalitions across Ontario are staging protests outside the hearings to stop the cuts, in partnership with the Ontario Federation of Labour.

"Nine consecutive years of real-dollar cuts have plunged Ontario into the bottom of the country in hospital funding. Patients are being left on stretchers in hallways, surgeries are being cancelled and vital health services are being privatized, subject to user fees, or moved out of town," said Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "It is beyond time that these devastating hospital cuts and the privatization of hospital services be stopped. The Ontario government must restore our public hospital funding to at least the average of all the other provinces in Canada."

Thunder Bay's hospitals are full to overflowing, patients line stretchers in hallways because there are too few beds. Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital's geriatric unit was wiped out by budget cuts in 2014 even though there are huge wait lists for long-term care across the region.

"Our hospitals are running at absolute full capacity with no room for any loss of services or staff," said Jules Tupker, co-chair of the Thunder Bay Health Coalition. "We fear that impending budget cuts will put even more pressure on our overstretched hospitals and even more stress on patients and their families. It is inevitable that cuts will harm patients and reduce patient care."

"Here in Thunder Bay, we are seeing the effects of austerity in every community. Hospital cuts, hydro privatization, mounting student debt, precarious jobs and Canada's lowest social program funding are taking their toll in every neighbourhood," said Patty Coates, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour. "Ontarians are calling on the Wynne Government to abandon her austerity agenda and lay out a plan for restoring public services, growing our economy, expanding Ontario's revenue base and lifting standards for everyone. The next Ontario budget shouldn't be constrained by government cuts, it should create an Ontario in which everyone prospers.",,

Contact Information:

Thunder Bay Health Coalition
Jules Tupker

Ontario Health Coalition
Natalie Mehra
Executive Director
416-230-6402 (cell)