‘Save our hospitals’ health care unions shout during downtown demonstration

Feb 8, 2024 | GTA/Local News, News, Provincial News

A rally on Feb.6 by hundreds of health care workers and union members demanded better working conditions and better-quality care for patients in Ontario’s health care system.

The protesters protested current hospital conditions.

Unifor Local 8300 President Kathleen Brooks said there isn’t enough being done. She said hallway health care is chronic.

“There’s not enough beds, there’s not enough doctors. Certainly, what our members are doing, there’s not enough people to do the work,” Brooks said. “Were short in every area, not just nurses and PSWs (personal support workers), but in every department and every hospital.”

Michael Hurley, president of Ontario Council of Health Unions and first vice-president of CUPE Ontario, said about 13,050 patients are bedded on stretchers in hallways, leaving them with no privacy.

“Some of them are dying. Some of them are being given medical treatment and given medical advice in situations where they have no privacy,” Hurley said.

“Their family members are anxious and desperately concerned,” he said. “It’s a very emotional time for them and there’s absolutely no place for them to have confidential conversations with their family members, to tell them they love them and how much they mean to them.”

The unions said they are looking for an increase in funding that goes beyond inflation levels. The increase would go towards creating safe working spaces, not only for hospital staff but for patients, as well.

“Last year they got a point five per cent increase in their funding and as a result, they have been making cuts,” Hurley said. “This is at a time when there aren’t enough services for people who need them now.”

He said 73 per cent of OCHU members are exhausted and a huge number of them dread going to work.

“They’re very anxious, very unhappy and sad,” Hurley said. “Their state of mind is very precarious and it’s not a healthy workforce.

“Dealing with people who are desperately sick, and dealing with inadequate resources and over time it wears them out,” he said.

Ontario Nurses’ Association joined the demonstration in support.

Karen McKay, vice president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, said nurses who are working in urgent care are caring for more patients. The nurse-to-patient ratio is currently one-to-five, she said.

“We are not only in a crisis of care, but we are in a crisis of decent working conditions. Nurses and health care workers are working 24-hour shifts, required to do excessive over-time,” McKay said.

“The Ford government must invest in safe staffing with decent working conditions and fair wages,” she said. “With enough nurses and health care professionals to support manageable workloads. It is the only solution to the defeating staffing crisis.”