CUPE calls out Matthews
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
With several police cruisers sitting noticeably nearby, more than 200 health care workers descended on the constituency office of Deb Matthews on Friday (Sept. 21) to protest cuts to long-term health care.
The workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) called on Matthews, the MPP for London North Centre, as well as the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, to stop what union officials call “the endless reforms to health care services resulting in bed and staffing cuts, not enough ambulances and tens of thousands of people waiting for home care and long-term care.”
Candace Rennick, CUPE secretary-treasurer, led the rally and shouted through her megaphone the Liberal government was elected to support public services and enhance health care. However, Rennick said the steps the province has taken over the past several years have only produced “contrary” results.
“People are upset. These are people working in our communities, doing the best they can with the resources they have. All too often, those resources are not enough,” Rennick said. “We are tired of hearing about this deficit problem. We want the government to step up and do what they can for long-term care workers and the people we care for.”
As part of extensive Liberal health care reforms, CUPE officials say, more and more services will be moved out of acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities into the lower cost community and home care setting. This despite what CUPE officials say are nearly 10,000 people awaiting home care supports and over 25,000 on wait lists for a long-term care bed.
Pat Riedel was a local face in the crowd of CUPE protestors. Riedel, a London resident and personal support worker who has worked in the health care sector for 38 years, said she has seen the health care system “go from bad to worse” during her career.
One of the most unfortunate parts of all the cutbacks, Riedel said, was that front line staff no longer have the resources, or the time, to do the job the way they want to do it.
“There is no dignity, there is no respect, there is no care in home care today. You don’t have time to do that. We used to be able to take the time to sit with a resident if they didn’t have family, we don’t have time to do that any more. Nobody should die alone,” Riedel said. “This is our first opportunity in some time to speak with her directly. I hope she will come to her senses and realize there is a problem that needs to be fixed.”
Riedel said she didn’t have a lot of faith in that hope as she sees Matthews as just another health minister in a long line who has continued to cut from the system time and time again.
Matthews did give Rennick and other CUPE officials 20 minutes of her time following the brief rally to have a conversation about the kinds of changes the workers are hoping to see.
It was just one brief meeting, but Rennick came away feeling better about where future discussions might lead.
“I think it was a step in the right direction, it was fairly positive. She obviously expressed great respect for the members who provide health care across the province,” said Rennick, who added the minister gave her a commitment to continue talks in the future. “A commitment to follow up and have further conversations around some of the things we put on the table. We are pretty happy with the outcome.”
Matthews — who earlier in the morning had announced funding for ambulance off-load nurses, as well as nearly $1.3 million in funding to support St. Joseph’s Urgent Care Centre — said she felt it was “a great conversation” with those she praises for delivering quality health care across the province.
However, she was quick to point out tough decisions still remain to be made.
“These are challenging times; there is no doubt about it. But these are also very exciting times for health care. We are going to keep spending more, but not as much more as we have been used to in the past,” Matthews said. “My challenge, our challenge, is to make the changes in our health care system that will get us better value for the money we spend. Better patient care for every dollar.”
Matthews said she was “very pleased” to see how far the health care sector has come under in areas such as wait times and the availability of family doctors. However, Matthews also said, “there is still more to do.”
Rennick would certainly agree with that point.
“I think you saw first hand, they (front line workers) are tired; they go to work and are expected to do more with less all the time,” Rennick said. “So we need to stand up for those who don’t have a voice. We need more resources, we need beds, we need shorter wait lists, we need more staff, we need more hands. I think that is what you heard from these people today.”
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