While the first snowfall hit Kingston on Oct. 27, approximately 1,000 people gathered in City Park for the first of what they hope will be a series of healthcare related protests across the province.
“We’re protesting the funding for health care in Ontario, which is the lowest in Canada,” Mike Rodrigues president of the CUPE Local 1974, said. CUPE Local 1974 represents frontline workers at Kingston General Hospital (KGH).
“It was a provincial rally. We had three buses from [Toronto], two out of Ottawa, one out of North Bay, one out of Sudbury, as far as New Liskeard. 14 buses, roughly 1,000 people here today.”
With the recent merger of KGH and Hotel Dieu hospital, the former remains extremely overpopulated, according to Rodrigues. He worked in maintenance at KGH before going full time with the union.
The decision to protest was largely driven by the current living conditions of some patients, he said.
“92 per cent of people polled in Kingston said hospitals need more funding,” he told The Journal after the rally.
“People are buying into it because they see the impact. They’re seeing patients in sunrooms. There’s no bathroom there!”
Their conditions were caused by medical institutions being over capacity, he said. Seeing the thousand-person turnout for the first protest, Rodrigues hopes that this is only the beginning.
“It’s a lead into a much larger series of events … there will be more coming and they’ll continue to get bigger,” he said.
The next one will be in Hamilton in February and the following will be in June in Sudbury, leading up to a big protest in Ottawa in October of next year, according to Rodrigues.
With a full year of preparations to go before marching on Parliament Hill, Rodrigues is optimistic that the movement he is a part of has the capacity to make a lasting change for medical patients in Ontario.
“1,000 people in Kingston is a good start,” he said. “You might see 10,000 in Ottawa. We don’t know.”
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