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Rural healthcare in the spotlight during coalition townhall


Rural southwest Ontario hospitals, particularly those which have borne the brunt of staff shortages and rotating closures, were in the spotlight during a town hall hosted by Ontario Health Coalition.

During the Tuesday town hall, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) and Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA) said provincial moves towards privatization could impact local healthcare services.

"In turn, the smaller hospitals have lost services as governments have forced downsizing,” said Doug Allan with the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC). “Local services have been cut and closed and centralized to other larger hospitals. This is a very significant worry we have about small hospitals that the services will to the extent that they remain will be rationed and moved to larger centres.”

Prior to the town hall meetings, the Ontario Hospital Association said in a media release discussions will surround urgent action to support local public hospitals instead of funneling millions into for-profit corporations to privatize public hospital services.

One local hospital in Seaforth has been seeing its emergency department face numerous closures through the year.

Seaforth nurse Tricia Delange spoke at the meeting and said the hospital only has two registered nurses in the ED at a time.

"Whenever a patient comes into the emergency department who needs a transfer, who's had a heart attack or a stroke, something major, that patient needs to go to a bigger centre that's obviously more specialized to that need," said Delange. "That nurse needs to go with the patient in the ambulance to that bigger centre. That leaves one nurse by themselves in the emergency department where another trauma can very easily and quickly come in.

"We don't have people on call. We go through our list of the ten nurses we have that work there and we can and we beg and we ask."

One member of the health coalition said lost services and staff shortages are two large contributing factors for many hospitals throughout rural areas, with Seaforth being one of the hardest hit.

The Clinton Public Hospital, which is also managed by the HPHA, has seen its own share of temporary closures this year to its emergency department. The hospital faced a prolonged closure starting in 2019 which lasted over a year.

The town hall was the latest in a series shining a spotlight on the issues local hospitals are facing in the province.

The next virtual town hall is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. and will focus on the town of St. Marys, which has also dealt with a number of closures and staffing issues at its hospital. Top Stories

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