Arnprior rally to oppose ongoing cuts to rural hospital

Arnprior is an Ottawa Valley community 66 kilometres north of the nation’s capital. The town is built around the mouth of the Madawaska River and has a population of more than 8,000 residents. The communities around Ottawa, including Arnprior, are seeing significant growth as the urban center extends further into the rural regions around it.

Like many smaller communities it has seen pressures to reduce local health services and force residents to travel to the city to seek health care.

It appears the province’s idea of the right care at the right time in the right place is seldom in a rural community. It has led to significant fight-back campaigns across the province – many of them successful.

The Arnprior and District Memorial Hospital’s health care professionals and support staff are hoping their community will be among those successes. They are calling on the community to join them in opposing the cuts as they march tomorrow morning (Tuesday, December 10) at 11:30 am from Hydro Park to the hospital.

Over the summer six acute care beds were closed at the hospital – not an unusual seasonal occurrence despite the northward migration of cottagers at that time of year. Usually the beds are restored in the winter, but not this year.

Residents fear that their emergency room will back up without the available beds.

Along with the bed closures the hospital is also reducing numerous professional supports. Fresh cuts include physiotherapy and diagnostic imaging services. The hospital also cut all of its personal support workers.

The problem with this emptying of health service capacity in the rural communities is that patients are ending up in big city hospitals that are also under stress.

Earlier this year The Ottawa Hospital announced job losses amounting to 290 full-time equivalent positions.

All hospitals are in the second year of a base funding freeze that is expected to last until 2018. Despite the claims by the province that it is not cutting health care, the reality of a funding freeze is that hospitals are losing considerable ground each year – some CEOs have told us the impact is somewhere between three and five per cent annually.

The province insists that the freeze is intended to facilitate health care transformation to community-based care, but that reinvestment often appears to be grossly insufficient to get the job done. Community-based care can also be expensive – especially for privately-run diagnostic services. It can also have much more limited hours and attach unpopular user fees to these services.

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