Community members pack Grey Bruce Health Unit town hall forum to demand action
More than 120 residents of Grey and Bruce Counties packed the Chatsworth Room at Owen Sound"s Days Inn Feb. 24 to demand answers about the way the Grey Bruce Health Unit has spent public dollars.
Citizen questions revolved around cuts in service, and the recent layoff of front-line staff, both OPSEU office and clerical workers and Ontario Nurses" Association members.
The GBHU recently moved into a sparkling new waterfront building in Owen Sound, at a cost of up to $23-million, after closing offices in a myriad of Grey and Bruce communities over the past decade. This was followed by layoffs of program assistants and nurses, and more program cuts.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was in Owen Sound to attend the meeting but fell ill. OPSEU was represented by Owen Sound staff representative Ted Loughead, and campaigns officer Rick Janson. Along with them were panelists Dave Trumble from the Grey Bruce Labour Council, and ONA vice-president Vicki McKenna.
Sister McKenna and Brother Loughead called on Health Minister David Caplan to launch an investigation of the Health Unit. McKenna said this was the first such call by her union in the 35 years of its existence.
Brother Trumble lamented the treatment of the front-line workers, specifically those from OPSEU Local 276, who spent the summer of 2008 on strike, fighting for a fair contract. Brother Janson reminded the audience about the cuts occurring across health care, and said the local hospitals could be next.
Citizens from as far away as Kincardine and West Grey, signed petitions and received detailed information about the management practices. Loughead called on the assembled group to pressure both local and provincial politicians to act.
On CFOS radio in Owen Sound earlier in the day, President Thomas called on the unit to be accountable to the citizens it serves.
Representatives from the GBHU and Board of Health, and local politicians of all levels, were all conspicuously absent despite wide publicity for the meeting.
The GBHU has been under intense scrutiny from citizens, unions and media for almost a year, with the completion of the new building and the disintegration of labour relations and morale at the unit.