Oxford Social Justice Coalition and friends gather outside the Woodstock General Hospital in favour of better medical care in Ontario

By Chris Funston, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Ontario hospitals are at capacity and, with beds at a premium, the next step could be forcing patients onto the street, the Oxford Social Justice Coalition says.

That group, along with several supporters, held a sympathy picket at Woodstock Hospital Saturday, urging better medical care in Ontario.

The protestors held signs asking the government to allow for more hospital beds, along with calls to hire more doctors and to keep Ingersoll’s Alexandra Hospital open.

But what stood out the most was the make-shift bed put together on the sidewalk that, while he admitted was a bit of a stretch, is what coalition chair Bryan Smith said could be the next step for someone seeking emergency services.

“We have lots of people in hospitals where they are over capacity. (Patients) are in hallways on gurneys,” Smith said.

In February, it was reported that a patient at Health Sciences North in Sudbury was kept in a hospital bathroom for 13 days as the facility had been at an average of 116 per cent capacity since January.

According to the Ontario Health Coalition, there were 34,000 people waiting for longterm care space in Ontario’s long-term care homes as of Dec. 27, 2017.

Smith said the government needs to do its part in creating better hospital, long-term and home care by ensuring the services needed are provided rather than working to abstract quotas that deny people things they need.

“I talked to someone today that’s been waiting two years for eye surgery, and he’s at the point where he’s almost legally blind – who could have been served and has been offered service at a price,” he explained. “I have to wonder why would we pay for something that we’ve already paid for through our provincial health care? It’s all about making sure we have free, accessible and universal health care as we were promised.”

Provincial NDP candidate Tara King explained that she, along with about 20 others who took part in the picket, remains dedicated to changing health care, which she described as the “backbone of a community.”

“We’re in a health-care crisis. We need more beds. We need more nurses,” said King. “We need to end this hallway health care that’s happening. It’s unacceptable and we don’t need to live like this. Our platform is supporting that.”