Community group gears up for April 1 rally in Chesley

·3 min read

CHESLEY – Hazel Pratt and Brenda Scott co-chair the Chesley Hospital Community Support Committee.

Scott said the core committee consists of 12 people.

“We got together in December,” she said, out of a common concern about continued emergency room service cuts and closures. “We wanted to contribute to this conversation.”

She noted the group includes health-care professionals and members of the physician recruitment team. There are also members of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario Inc. group – the Chesley area has a large number of senior citizens.

The Chesley Hospital Community Support Committee is conducting an awareness campaign that includes a petition and upcoming rally. Rather than depending on social media, the group is going for a “face-to-face” format as much as possible. The personal approach means the petition is paper only, and will be hand-delivered to Queen’s Park.

It’s an approach that meshes well with the people of the area – a lot of senior citizens, as well as a large Mennonite and Amish community.

Scott noted that’s one reason why the Chesley hospital is so important. Many of the people it serves don’t drive and don’t have easy access to a vehicle.

Driving to the nearest hospital with an ER that’s open isn’t easy when it’s the middle of the night, and the person may not have either a car, or a phone to arrange a ride. And that hospital may have increased wait times because patients from other hospitals are being directed there.

“Our hospital has been there 79 years,” said Scott. “This is the fourth time it’s been under threat of closure.”

She noted Chesley is a special place, with a real sense of community.

“That’s what saved the hospital the first three times, and we hope it will, again,” said Scott.

“The amount of community support is incredible.”

The group is insisting on being heard, she said. That goes well beyond delivering the petition in person. It means insisting that the Arran-Elderslie council gets an answer to the letter it sent to the province. It means insisting that nurses get treated with respect – a major factor in the local shortage of nurses is, they aren’t. And the use of agency nurses at a much higher rate of pay only adds to the sense that nurses aren’t being given the respect they’re due.

Scott said copies of the petition will be available at the April 1 rally at the community centre.

The rally, planned from 2-4 p.m., will include food, entertainment, and special speakers, and Scott said she expects a great turnout.

She said she hopes to see people from other communities that have experienced ER closures.

The group has an online presence (chesleyhcs.ca) and has been busy putting up posters and lawn signs to draw attention to the rally.

“Closures and reduced services are not acceptable,” Scott said.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times