People chanted, they waved flags, they cheered, they even danced… all with one purpose – to send the message to stop the cuts.
Not even blasting cold winds could cool down the more than 600 people at Trenton’s Centennial Park on Friday determined to let Queen’s Park know they were sick and tired of cuts being made to Trenton Memorial Hospital.
From politicians to union representatives to even a local celebrity the message people wanted the provincial government to hear was that cuts to health care and hospitals needed to end.
“Quinte Health Care has tried to break Trenton Memorial Hospital,” Our TMH member Mike Cowan told the crowd huddled at the amphitheatre. “And QHC will not fix Trenton Memorial Hospital.
“It is time for us to take back our hospital. And I can promise you it would take us 10 years to fix it.”
Among those present at the event were recently elected MP Neil Ellis, MPP Todd Smith, Quinte West mayor Jim Harrison and Brighton Mayor Mark Walas.
Notable by his absence was Northumberland/Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi, who had a family commitment but said he would not be attending anyway.
Rinaldi said he preferred meeting face to face to talk rather than in rallies.
The crowd at Centennial Park clearly disagreed. Between speeches they frequently chanted “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Health care cuts have got to go” as speaker after speaker lambasted the provincial government for cuts to hospitals.
Most noted that cuts to TMH impacted not just the people of Trenton but people throughout the region.
Smith lambasted the province for having its priorities out of whack, preferring to spend money on things it feels are important rather than what people think is important.
“The number one issue to people in Quinte and in Ontario is adequate health care,” he said. “Unfortunately the decisions being made at Queen’s Park are putting the priorities elsewhere.
“Cuts at Trenton Hospital affect hospitals all across the region… in Belleville, in Picton, in Bancroft. I can promise you I will be a loud voice working to make sure the government does the right thing and stops these cuts.”
Betty Clost of Our TMH said she appreciated everyone who showed up for the rally, from those who came in by bus from as far away as Brockville but in particular those locally who came by.
“We are very pleased with the turnout,” certainly the buses, people from all over the region were very much appreciate.
But sitting down the front row were a lot of our seniors who are constant users of our health care services both in the hospital and out. It was wonderful to see them here and putting up with the wind and the cold.
Others who attended included Evelyn Wilson of Carrying Place, was recently named the first-ever Peter Soumalias Unsung Hero by Canada’s Walk of Fame.
She said as a Trenton resident she knows the value of having a fully functioning local hospital.
“Growing up playing sports, I know the importance of a local hospital,” she said. “As a mother with a young son I know how important it is to have a hospital in the community.
“I know the face of health care is changing but having TMH with full services benefits us all. And I can tell you, it is not 20 minutes to get to BGH from Trenton. And 35-45 minutes is too much time.
“We need TMH to ensure we have a health community. Let’s keep fighting for TMH,” she said to cheers from the crowd.
Among the concerns raised were changes to the type of care being provided at TMH as well as continued cuts to hospitals not just in Quinte but across Ontario.
Representatives of hospital workers noted with spending freezes, hospitals have seen a 24 per cut in real terms in the last four years. They also said Ontario now spends less per capita on health care than any other province and has fewer beds per capita than any other province.
Natalie Mehran, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said continued changes and cuts are slowly wearing away the viability of smaller hospitals.
“I don’t think it’s overstated to warn the community that your hospital is very much at risk unless we stop the budget cuts… not only stop but reinvest and restore funding
“The political message to Lou Rinaldi is please, please, please, take this message back to your colleagues in caucus: hospitals are teetering at the brink of total disaster particularly in smaller towns that can’t take any more cuts to their budget.”
She said one of the very real fallouts of cuts are hospitals is that it starts to pit community against community for dollars.
“The truth is Belleville is at risk of losing dollars to Kingston,” she said. “With the new restructuring that is happening now everyone is getting cut.”
Mehran said the next step would be taking the fight to Queen’s Park. Clost said Our TMH has discussed that move but hasn’t made any definitive plans yet.
Originally posted on inquinte.ca