Province-wide Ontario Health Coalition referendum kicked off Monday

Welland Mayor Frank Campion and Wainfleet Township Mayor April Jeffs cast their votes for the Ontario Health Coalition referendum. Members of the coalition takin their ballots were Dave Toderick, Wendy Brown and Henry Miron.

Welland Mayor Frank Campion and Wainfleet Township Mayor April Jeffs cast their votes for the Ontario Health Coalition referendum. Members of the coalition takin their ballots were Dave Toderick, Wendy Brown and Henry Miron.

Volunteers with the Ontario Health Coalition have initiated a province-wide referendum Monday to put an end to cuts to the community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet the community’s needs for care.

In Welland, the referendum was kicked off in front of the Welland Hospital which has been targeted for closure under the Niagara Health Services plan.

“I certainly support this initiative,” Welland Mayor Frank Campion said to the small group gathered in front of the Welland Hospital. “It’s about making sure that all residents of Ontario have equal access to quality health care.”

He said that the Welland hospital supports the local communities around, Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Welland.

“This is our hospital,” he said.

“So, if it’s funding, whatever the cost of exposure is, and I suspect it has to do with funding, not better health care,” he said. “Then we need the funding. We need to insure that the proper amount of money to keep equitable quality healthcare for all residents.”

“If you are trying to nickel and dime, this is not the place to do it,” he said.

He said that the closure of the hospital would severely affect residents in the communities it serves, causing mobility problems for many and greatly reducing the quality of life for many.

“Bottom line is, the closure of our hospital, stop it,” he said. “We need to keep our hospital open, it’s a fact. We aren’t asking for something out of the ordinary, we have a hospital, we should maintain that hospital, they should not close our hospital. ”

Wainfleet Township Mayor April Jeffs also attended the kick-off Monday morning. The Welland Hospital serves her community as well and has been a major concern of hers.

“I think I like this referendum,” she said. “I think it gives people a voice, people think they haven’t had any say in this, they just will be taken from us.”

“Everything we do helps,” she said. “Every step that we take helps.”

She described the plans and the current level of care as “not acceptable.”

“I know the model of care is changing, I understand that, but, it doesn’t mean taking away a hospital,” she said. “We need this hospital for all the surrounding communities. For us in Wainfleet it’s a matter of distance. We hear people say all the time ‘We feel left out, the access to quality care.’”

“I really do commend the community coming together,” she said. “People are really, really concerned about it and we need to keep putting these opportunities out there, people will sign petitions, they will put their thoughts in the ballot box, this is something that is crucial to everybody.”

The referendum is scheduled for Saturday May 28, ballot boxes are going to be set up all around the communities by members of the Niagara Health Coalition, details for locations and advanced polling are still to be sorted out.

“We all there know there is a crisis in health care all across Ontario,” Connie Butler of the Niagara Health Coalition said. “We want to take the results of the referendum to the Wynne government in Queen’s Park, we want them to listen to ordinary Ontarians like us that are saying ‘Enough is enough. You are putting our lives in danger.’”

“This province is in bad trouble with respect to health care,” she said. “It’s the lowest funding of all the provinces in Canada and probably the lowest of any developed country.”

“We can’t suffer any more cuts to our hospitals, this area in particular and to health care services,” she said. “So, we want that message to get to Queen’s Park so the closure of this hospital can be stopped as well as other services across the province that have been cut.”

“There is precedent for this,” Butler said. “The Ontario Health Coalition has stopped a number of small hospital closures, they stopped the closure of birthing services in Belleville, there have been a number of cuts like that that have been stopped through the activities of the Ontario Health Coalition.”

They are in need of lots of volunteers to help out with the referendum. People can volunteer by emailing niagarahealthcoalition@yahoo.com, or go through their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/264670560348978/ .