NORTH BAY – Today’s decision by the North East Local Health Integration Network (NE-LHIN) to remove 31 specialized mental health beds from North Bay will result in the direct loss of 64 jobs and cost the local economy an estimated $4.8 million, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
The NE-LHIN ignored local input to keep the beds in North Bay, instead relocating the beds and existing patients to Sudbury when Northeast Mental Health Centre moves into its new facility next January.
“You don’t fix a service gap in one community by taking services from another,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The LHINs were supposed to coordinate service delivery by listening to local communities. We have yet to see any reasonable evidence of that taking place.”
The North East LHIN refused to respond to OPSEU’s request to make its own presentation to the LHIN board prior to the decision.
The union says that few of the experienced health professionals working at the North Bay campus will want to make the move to Sudbury.
“How will the standard of care be improved when these patients will be forced to move and leave behind their trusted care providers?” asks Thomas. “North Bay is their home.”
The union had been working with various stakeholders in the community to find a North Bay solution to the problem after it was learned the new $1 billion P3 facility wouldn’t have room for the 31 beds.
“This kind of disregard for local communities has permanently damaged the LHINs,” says Thomas. “We know there is talk of merging the LHINs to a smaller number of jurisdictions – the government likely needs to start looking at replacing them altogether.”