Public Health Ontario cuts would endanger rural families: OPSEU/SEFPO

TORONTO, Dec. 21, 2023 /CNW/ – Recent recommendations from the Auditor General to close six out of 11 Public Health Ontario (PHO) laboratory sites would endanger rural families and communities, says OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick, who is calling for solutions that build health care capacity.

“Closing Public Health Ontario lab sites would threaten the health infrastructure and resilience of smaller and rural communities that are still recovering from the Covid crisis,” said Hornick. “Rural families and communities depend on timely and accurate lab testing, and they deserve safe drinking water like residents in Toronto.”

Frontline workers at Public Health Ontario have expressed deep concern about the capacity issues in their workplaces and say serious shortages of staffing and equipment have forced some sites to transfer significant portions of their tests to the Toronto lab. Those sites are now under threat.

“Recruitment and retention are the solution to Public Health Ontario’s capacity issues, not cuts,” said Casey McGuire, Bargaining Team Chair and OPSEU/SEFPO Diagnostics Representative. “We’re dealing with capacity issues in every corner of the health care system that must be addressed. But funneling tests to Toronto isn’t safe or sustainable. The province must build public capacity to keep all Ontarians safe – no matter where they live. It’s about fairness and equity.”

Laboratory professionals at Public Health Ontario are at the forefront of public health. They provide testing for 34 public health units, hospitals, and long-term care homes; they test for viral pathogens in food, water and the environment, and track outbreaks of infectious diseases like Covid. They also test water for residential wells and small communities to ensure drinking water is clean and safe. 

“The work done by OPSEU/SEFPO members at PHO saved lives during the pandemic,” said Hornick. “Closing sites would undermine our ability to detect and prevent the spread of disease and compromise our preparedness for inevitable future health crises. We will continue to stand with our members who are fighting to protect public safety and the future of Public Health Ontario laboratories.”

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO)

Public Health Ontario cuts would endanger rural families: OPSEU/SEFPO WeeklyReviewer

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