Hundreds of health-care workers from across Ontario descended on Health Sciences North in Sudbury, Ont., today chanting and waving flags as they marched near the hospital.
The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions —which is the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)— held the rally to demand an increase in health-care funding from the provincial government.
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"We're here today to push all three political parties to support a real increase in hospital funding and funding for long term care," OCHU president Michael Hurley said.
5.3% increase in funding needed
The 2017 Ontario budget increased health-care spending by 3 per cent, but the union group argues that this is not enough to cover rising costs and inflation.
"These hospitals need at least 5.3 per cent [more] funding just to meet demands," OCHU secretary treasurer Sharon Richer said.
Richer works in the cardiac medical unit at Health Sciences North.
She said hospital workers there are overworked because there isn't enough funding to increase staff.
"They're trying to do double duty," Richer said. "They work hard and they skip their breaks, and they do the best job they can."
Organizers estimate there were 250 HSN employees at the rally, along with roughly 750 health-care workers from across the province, who travelled by bus.
The rally was the fourth of its kind in the province since the fall of 2016. The others were held in Kingston, Hamilton and Kenora.
OCHU plans to hold more rallies in other Ontario communities, including Ottawa and Toronto.
'People are suffering'
Ken Desroches, a personal support worker from Ottawa, left for Sudbury at 3:30 a.m.
He says he nearly missed the rally when the bus he was on broke down 60 kilometers from Sudbury.
Desroches said he attended the other rallies, and hopes someone will eventually hear their message.
"People are losing their jobs, people are suffering in hospitals. Communities are suffering," he said.
Although health care workers face challenges due to lack of funding, Desroches said it's the patients who suffer the most.
"A lot of these patients...need toileting, they need feeding, they need medication," he said.
"They need our help and we're supposed to be there for them. The longer they wait, the more they suffer."