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OCHU: Northern hospitals shortchanged in provincial budget

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The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions says hospitals across Northern Ontario were shortchanged by the provincial budget. In a release, the union says the budget provided a 3.1 per cent overall funding increase for hospitals, but the average increase for most Northern hospitals was two per cent. President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, Michael Hurley says all Northern Ontario hospitals face challenges associated with higher than average chronic diseases, and higher rates of cancer.

Hurley says in North Bay, you just have to look at the jobs that have been cut over the past few years to see the negative impact these funding short falls are having. He wants to see the province raise funding levels to around five per cent, so they can deal with the challenges they face. Hurley says the only exception to the hospital funding in Northern Ontario was in Sault Ste. Marie. He says that begs the question of whether the funding is politically based, since there is a by-election in the riding right now to replace former Liberal MPP David Orazietti. Hurley is in Sudbury today working on plans for a provincial healthcare rally in the city on June 8th.

Hurley says all Northern Ontario hospitals face similar challenges. He says they have to deal with a number of issues including worse mental health outcomes for young people and a higher percentage of seniors than the rest of the province. Hurley says there are also many more individuals without access to a family physician, lower incomes generally, and a large aboriginal population living without adequate housing or drinking water. He says all of these factors combined with the geography continue to punish Northern Ontario, and are reasons why funding has to be increased to at least meet operating costs for Northern hospitals.

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