Kingsley Kwok, right, speaks at a stop during the Scarborough Health Coalition's Day of Action on Nov. 9. The demonstration, an 18-vehicle rolling carpool rally, travelled to five Scarborough MPP offices to protest hospital funding cuts.

Hospital ‘mergers don’t save money’, rolling rally tells MPPs

Scarborough Hospital, Rouge Valley Health System merger talk pushes coalition to protest

“Stop the cuts, save our services,” protestors chanted during an 18-vehicle rolling carpool rally on Nov. 9.

With a merger of The Scarborough Hospital and the Rouge Valley Health System in the works, the Scarborough Health Coalition led its Day of Action to five local MPP offices to get its message across.

Hospital funding is already tight, Scarborough Health Coalition chair Kingsley Kwok said. The Scarborough Hospital has cut $17 million in services this year because of provincial cuts, Kwok said.

A merger of the two Scarborough hospitals likely won’t help matters, said Scarborough Health Coalition campaign director Kim Johnston.

“The argument is that the merger will save money but mergers don’t save money,” Johnston said. “There is no example anywhere in Ontario that actually saved money.”

According to the Ontario Health Coalition, the Scarborough and Ajax communities are facing an additional $28 million in hospital funding cuts by 2014/2015.

“These are services that are essential to families and individuals in the community,” Johnston said. “I think that in Scarborough especially it will have devastating effects for services to be so dispersed for seniors, people who rely on transit.”

Lisa Sutton, who has worked at the Scarborough Hospital for more than 10 years, agreed.

“All the cuts that are happening are affecting those that are aging,” said Sutton, who said she remembers the 1998 merger of the Salvation Army Grace Hospital with The Scarborough Hospital.

“We live in one of the wealthiest provinces,” she said. “Scarborough has unfortunately a very poor population and they are the ones that need a lot of health care and are getting older.”

Mushtaq Sayed, a real estate agent, said his family has already been affected by the decrease in hospital spending.

“My father recently got knee surgery and he was supposed to go to a rehab centre,” Sayed said. “But they said there is not enough funding for that so they reduced his knee surgery to just one leg so he wouldn’t have to go to rehab.

“If we don’t do this now they will keep downsizing.”

That downsizing affects workers, including those not employed by Scarborough’s hospitals, said Learie Charles, an executive of the Scarborough branch of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

“Our workers who get injured on the streets doing their job — and this happens regularly for the post office — they’re required to rely on hospital services,” he said. “All people in the community should put pressure on the MPPs to not go in the direction of further cuts.”