Unions representing 70,000 healthcare workers rally for more hospital funding

PV staff  

Three unions which collectively represent 70,000 Ontario healthcare workers rallied in downtown Toronto on February 7, calling for a 5-percent increase for hospital funding.

CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE), SEIU Healthcare and Unifor are currently in negotiations for a contract that would help their members deliver better patient care. Specifically, the unions want the government to fund increased staffing and capacity.

Hospitals throughout Ontario are plagued by overcrowding, long wait lists for surgeries, and frequent emergency room shutdowns.

OCHU-CUPE President Michael Hurley told the crowd, “There is a crisis in hospital care in Ontario. People are dying on the wait lists for surgeries and diagnostic procedures. They wait for beds on hallway stretchers in unprecedented numbers. We are calling on the Ontario government to end its policy of cutting hospital budgets in real terms and to add staff and beds, and end the crisis now.”

In 2022-23, Doug Ford’s Conservative government cut hospital funding in Ontario by $156 million. Furthermore, the Tories didn’t even spend the full amount of their reduced budget – Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office, the province’s independent financial watchdog, reported the government spent $1.7 billion less than planned on healthcare in the 2022-23 fiscal year. During that same period, even many rural and small-town hospitals faced with severe ongoing staff shortages which resulted in some emergency room closures.

Rather than admit that it is deliberately manufacturing a crisis through underfunding, Ford and Co. are putting public money into the false solution of private “mini-hospitals.” These “Independent Health Facilities” (IHFs – private, for-profit surgical and diagnostic facilities) are budgeted to get a 212 percent increase from last year’s Budget Estimates.

In addition to OCHU-CUPE, SEIU Healthcare and Unifor, the February 7 “Save our hospital care” rally had participation from several other unions and community groups including the Ontario Nurses Association, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, the Ontario Health Coalition, CUPE 416, CUPE 79 and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

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