Gelinas, West vow to 'retain, recruit, and return' health-care workers if NDP elected

·4 min read

Sudbury’s so-called hallway medicine crisis has been a centrepoint of the 2022 provincial campaign for local NDP candidates Jamie West and France Gelinas.

In a press conference held outside Health Sciences North Monday morning, the incumbent candidates for Sudbury and Nickel Belt, respectively, reiterated their commitment to bringing dignity back to patient care in the north.

“HSN has very high numbers and is known across the province for hallway medicine,” said West, who is seeking re-election in Sudbury following his first term in office. “We think that people deserve the best quality health care available not based on what they can pay, but based on the need of service that they have. We cannot afford more cuts.”

West criticized Doug Ford’s Conservative government for what he called cuts to health care over the last four years, but was also critical of his plans for the future.

“We've recently been looking at the budget that Doug Ford tabled that over three years will take another $2.8 billion from health care across Ontario,” said West. “We can’t afford to have this happen. We already have a backlog of surgeries that need to take place. We already have a lot of work that needs to be done when it comes to improving and getting away from hallway medicine.”

Gelinas, who has previously served as health care critic for the NDP and is on the Nickel Belt ballot for the fifth consecutive provincial election, said she’s received many complaints about health care in Sudbury.

In her remarks she shared a story she received from a voter about her 87-year-old father, who was admitted to the hospital to a bed in a hallway without a phone, call button, or toilet.

“He’s already soiled himself and needed a change of clothes, but they put a large adult diaper on him,” Gelinas read from the letter. “And when he got up to use the bathroom in another patient’s room, it fell to his ankles. He was so embarrassed. He’s having anxiety about going to the bathroom. He can never relax. He never feels comfortable. Where is his dignity? How is this quality patient care?”

Gelinas said the NDP plan to address to the crisis through a “retain, recruit, and return” model in hopes of making Northern Ontario a more attractive place for health-care professional to work.

Retaining workers would mean treating them with more respect, said Gelinas, who reiterated the party’s intention to repeal Bill 124, which capped wage increases for public sector workers, including nurses.

Recruiting, she added, would mean fixing the recertification process for internationally qualified workers like nurses and physicians.

“We have trained (health-care workers) right here in Ontario, that will take years and years before they can have their credentials,” she said. “There are 1,500 nurses, internationally trained, that have not been able to go through the process.

"Don’t get me wrong, I want them to be good nurses and I want them to go through the process, but it should not take three years.”

Finally, she said the party hopes to help workers who retired early due to poor conditions return in new roles.

“There are a lot of newly retired health-care workers who have left the field who would come back if there was a workload that they could handle,” said Gelinas. “We want to bring them back in jobs where they will help the new recruits get used to working in Northern Ontario. Maybe working part-time, or working hours that are more convenient to them.”

Gelinas and West were joined at their press conference by Liana Holm, president of ETFO Rainbow Teacher Local, which represents teachers across the region.

Holm said she was in attendance to show solidarity between teachers and nurses, who she said felt equally disrespected by the Conservative government.

“In the majority of people’s lifetime, you’re going to need health care and you’re going to need schools,” she said. “Those seem to be the places that the Ford government is going after and reducing funding drastically. By doing that, you’re creating a system that is going to fail because it’s not staffed properly.”

She said she would be “voting for change on June 2.”

“We’re in this together,” said Holm. “If people don’t come out and stand together shoulder to shoulder, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

Twitter: @mia_rjensen

Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star

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