Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she plans to make sure premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins keep their word regarding funding the Emergency Department in Wallaceburg.
“You’d better believe it,” she said following a meeting with local health advocates Sunday. “We’re prepared to stand up and be a voice for this community. The bottom line is that you can’t take away access to the ER in small communities. Residents in rural communities, small towns and northern Ontario are paying equal health taxes and deserve equal health care.”
Despite funding assurances made by Wynne and Hoskins in the provincial legislature in April, the two Chatham boards of the Alliance have submitted a plan calling for closure of the Sydenham Campus ER in favour of a part-time clinic without physician staffing.
The Chatham boards have refused to meet with the Sydenham board and have “suspended governance” of the Alliance.
As a result, the Sydenham board is proceeding with its plan as well. SDH chair Sheldon Parsons said four of the five groups it has approached have agreed to discuss the future health care for north Kent and south Lambton County areas. The Chatham Kent Community Health Centres refused the SDH invitation to discuss the plan.
The Chatham-based part of the Alliance has submitted a plan that would close the SDH emergency department and replace it with a part-time clinic without physician staffing on-site.
The SDH board plans a meeting with its prospective partners but still holds out hope CKCHC officials will be involved eventually.
“We are open to dialogue at any time. The meeting we have called is a beginning and a start to discussions about what is best for the patients that we all serve,” said SDH board chair Sheldon Parsons. “We hope that all prospective partners will eventually come to the table because the health of our shared patients is too important not to do so.”
Horwath said she is prepared to do what it takes to determine why the Sydenham campus of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance lost its small rural hospital funding designation.
Former SDH board chair and Wallaceburg councillor Jeff Wesley said he welcomes Horwath’s support.
“She’s well-versed in the issue,” he said. “Unlike the Alliance, we’re members of the community without paid staff and expense accounts. We can’t put out news releases daily so having people speak up on our behalf is important.”
Wallaceburg councillor Carmen McGregor said she was delighted with Horwath’s interest.
“I’m very happy that she’s here, fighting for those of us in smaller communities,” she said. “I welcome her help in finding out how Wallaceburg lost its designation as a small rural hospital without any input from the SDH board.”