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Healthcare advocates plan their own hearings on future of rural and northern Ontario hospitals

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Twelve public hearings have been scheduled next month by the Ontario Health Coalition to address concerns about local services in northern and rural hospitals.

The Coalition said they’re inviting the public to bring their recommendations before a “non-partisan” panel of “well respected experts” at a series of hearings beginning March 4.

"Since last summer, we have asked the government to conduct meaningful public consultations as their hospital policies are fundamentally changing the public's access to needed health care," said Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition in a statement on Monday.

"But when the McGuinty government revealed the mandate of their rural and northern panel last fall, not only does it fail to mention the word "hospital", there were no plans to conduct public hearings until after the panel had completed its work and made its recommendations to the Minister of Health."

So the Ontario Health Coalition decided to set up their own panel so it could hear directly from communities about their feelings on the future of their local hospitals.

"Ontarians fund our hospitals,” said Mehra. “It is unbefitting of a parliamentary democracy to make a policy change - like the closure of hospitals it has taken more than half a century to build - without full disclosure, full consideration of all the options and meaningful public discussion.”

Following the hearings, the panel will deliver its own report publicly as well as to the Premier and the Minister of Health.

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