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Ontario Health Coalition wants action from all provincial party leaders to improve access to public health-care services

| September 17, 2011
Photo: John Bonnar

After developing an infection following an operation in May, Marion McMullen was placed in an isolation room for eight days before being discharged and sent home with antibiotics. Two days later, she returned to hospital with non-stop diarrhea but was released after eight hours.

Her family was never told that she could be suffering with C. Difficile, a potentially deadly disease that invades the intestines.

In mid-June, her son got a "disturbing" call from his aunt who told him his mother was slowly dying at home.

"I could not believe that our medical system had come to this," said Steve McMullen during Tuesday's rally at Queen's Park organized by the Ontario Health Coalition.

Even now, after four months and eight hospital stays, he said, "she still continues to deal with this deadly disease."

McMullen can't figure out how the Niagara Health System (NHS), Ontario's largest multi-site hospital amalgamation, "mishandled" his mother's case.

Why did it take so long to test her for C. Diff.?

"Was it because of the $70 cost of the test?" asked McMullen. "Or maybe they just didn't want to acknowledge another case so they could stay under the radar."

On Tuesday, dozens of buses traveled to Queen's Park from across the province, where they were joined by thousands of health-care advocates from the Greater Toronto Area, for a rally calling on the provincial party leaders to provide guarantees on key health-care issues.

"Even though every political party in this election will pay lip service to health care, we want to make sure that they have to make some clear commitments on the issues that matter to Ontarians," said Natalie Mehra, Director, Ontario Health Coalition.

In large towns across Ontario, hospitals are running at more than 100 per cent capacity. Patients lie on stretchers in the hallways of emergency departments for hours waiting for beds to open up so they can be admitted and seen by staff.

In Belleville and Kingston, patients are forced to travel to Ottawa for surgery but are turned away because there are no hospital beds available. Emergency rooms in small and rural communities are under the constant threat of closure.

Seniors can't find stable, long-term home care that would allow them to live independently in their homes. Another 24,000 people are on waiting lists for nursing homes because living at home is no longer possible.

Ontario Nurses' Association President Linda Haslam Stroud warned that the future of public health care is at risk unless the government takes the necessary steps to ensure better access to public health-care services.

She recalled back in the '90s when the Conservatives compared nurses to hula hoops and made drastic cuts to nursing staffs and vital services.

"We want to make sure whoever is elected is going to ensure that we are there to provide quality care," said Haslam Stroud. "Our votes on October 6 will make a big difference."

Sadly, they won't make a difference for Danny Henderson, one of several residents living in a for-profit nursing home that were forced to wipe themselves with their hands because there was no toilet paper in the washrooms.

"He died, according to the coroner, of starvation," said Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE).

"Danny Henderson and the generation that fought the Second World War are not getting the care they deserve in our nursing homes and hospitals. And the situation will only worsen unless we stand up for them."

Hurley predicted that the funding policies of all three political parties will lead to another 5,000 hospital beds being closed across the province in the next two years.

When Steve McMullen called the NHS hotline, he said he was "brushed off" for asking whether or not his mother's case had been documented.

"They weren't even interested in how my mother was doing," he said.

Click here to see more photos from the rally.

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