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London chapter protests closure of Leamington hospital’s obstetrics unit

Yesterday’s protest outside MPP Deb Matthews’ constituency office. Photo by Robert Cory.

The Council of Canadians London chapter joined with allies yesterday to protest in front of Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Deb Matthews’ constituency office. They were there to demand that she stop the the proposed closure of birthing and other obstetrical services at the Leamington District Memorial Hospital.

The London North Centre MPP is both the deputy premier and the President of the Treasury Board. That means that she has direct responsibility for the provincial government’s austerity agenda and planned cuts to public services, including cuts to hospitals. About 300 babies are delivered each year at the Leamington hospital. If the obstetrics unit were to be closed, pregnant women would need to travel 50 kilometres to Windsor to give birth at a hospital there. The Windsor Star has reported that the closure of the obstetrics unit would be “an attack on rural women, particularly Mennonite mothers who make up about 70 per cent of the women who give birth Leamington District Memorial Hospital.”

The Ontario Health Coalition reports in a media release that, “A large group, including pregnant women, travelled from Leamington to London to bring their message to the senior cabinet minister. They were joined by concerned citizens from Oxford County, Stratford, St. Marys, and Seaforth where services including labs, acute care beds and other services are being slashed. Nurses and activists from London joined the protest in solidarity, noting that London’s hospital is running at more than 100 per cent capacity often and, after suffering major cuts here, there is no room for regional patients whose local services have been axed. The same is true for Windsor’s hospital, where Leamington’s expectant mothers would be forced to travel, more than an hour’s drive, if their local services are cut.”

London chapter activist Roberta Cory notes, “There is no public transit from Leamington to the hospital in Windsor – a cab costs $100 every time a pregnant person without a car has to get checked by her doctor in Windsor. Mexican migrants who speak low German have no translators in Windsor. Even if you have a car, driving a woman in labour all the way to Windsor in a blizzard or even on black ice is dangerous. Leamington needs to keep OB at their hospital. Tell Deb Mathews to loosen the purse strings!” And London chapter activist Robert Cory adds, “[The rally to] SAVE OB in Leamington [is] part of a general campaign by the Ontario Health Coalition to stop cuts to public health care in Ontario by the austerity promoting Ontario provincial government.”

The obstetrics unit had been scheduled to close on March 31, but that deadline has now been extended until at least June. An advisory panel established by the area’s Local Health Integration Network will be making a recommendation around May 7 on the future of the hospital.

Further reading
Windsor-Essex chapter opposes closure of Leamington hospital’s obstetrics unit (January 2015 blog)