The Ontario Health Coalition; Friends of Four Counties Hospital; Mayor of West Elgin and Warden of Elgin-County, Graham Warwick;and former city councilor of Newbury, Monte McNaughton criticized the McGuinty government’s plans for its Rural and Northern Health Panel for lack of public consultations. Noting that many devastating cuts and closures are already underway, the group called for a moratorium pending proper public consultations and a review of the current cuts.
The government announced the Panel in response to a major protest against hospital cuts and closures, involving thousands of residents from small and rural communities in front of the Ontario Legislature last April. However, when it finally released the Terms of Reference for the Health Minister’s Panel on Rural and Northern Care, there is not a single mention of hospitals. In addition, there are no plans for public consultations until after the panel completes its work this winter; too late for many of the small and rural hospital cuts and closures now underway.