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Tory MPPs lobbying to save services at Scarborough hospital

Progressive Conservative MPPs from Scarborough, North York and Markham are urging their own government to save existing pediatric and obstetric services at the Birchmount hospital.

Last week, six Tory MPPs met with senior aides to Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott to plead their case for stopping the maternity ward move from the hospital — which used to be known as the Scarborough Grace — to Scarborough General, which is 10 km away.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis says he will campaign against local Tory MPPs in 2022 if the provincial government allows proposed service cuts at the Birchmount hospital to go ahead.
Councillor Jim Karygiannis says he will campaign against local Tory MPPs in 2022 if the provincial government allows proposed service cuts at the Birchmount hospital to go ahead.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star file photo)

“We could lose our seats if this goes through,” admitted one worried local PC MPP, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal caucus deliberations. “This is a big problem because the community doesn’t want this to happen.”

That’s why some PC MPPs want the government to overrule local health authorities, who have argued the changes would actually deliver better services.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis (Ward 22, Scarborough-Agincourt), who is leading the charge to preserve the services and is working closely with some of the local Tory MPPs, warned “there will be a price to pay” in the 2022 election if Queen’s Park fails to act.

“I’m going to go out of my way to make sure all six ridings are lost,” said Karygiannis, a former Liberal MP who maintains he’s “now a political atheist.”

The seats that could be in play are currently held by Conservative MPPs Aris Babikian (Scarborough-Agincourt), Raymond Cho (Scarborough North), Logan Kanapathi (Markham-Thornhill), Vincent Ke (Don Valley North), Christina Mitas (Scarborough Centre), and Vijay Thanigasalam (Scarborough-Rouge Park).

“These (Tories) are friends of mine, but friendship has got nothing to do with this,” said Karygiannis, stressing Ford and Elliott have to “step forward” to help the community and PC fortunes.

The government, which has no plans to overturn a decision by the Scarborough hospital board, is allaying fears that the Birchmount facility will eventually be closed down altogether by investing $27 million in a new emergency room there.

“Hospitals must be allowed to make independent decisions regarding their operations and patient safety, and our government respects those decisions,” Heather Potter, the health minister’s director of issues and legislative affairs, said Thursday.

“While we understand hospital programs can and must evolve, our government does not support the closure of this hospital or its emergency department.”

In a letter to Elliott two weeks ago, Maureen Adamson, chair of the Scarborough Health Network board of directors, underscored that “we are not closing, nor do we intend to close, the Birchmount emergency department.

“We will continue to provide 24/7 on-call pediatrics and obstetrics support for all of our emergency departments,” she wrote.

However, Dr. Lisa Salamon, a Birchmount emergency physician who strongly opposes the changes, said scheduled pediatric and obstetric services could be gone after November, meaning longer trips for expectant mothers and parents.

“Anything can be stopped because they haven’t done anything. Nothing’s moved, it’s still business as usual. There’s still time, but we’re running out of time,” said Salamon.

In 2006 and again in 2013, the previous Liberal government intervened amid the threat of service reductions at the Birchmount hospital.

Scarborough Health Network spokesman David Belous noted 76 per cent of Birchmount-area women already have their babies elsewhere.

Belous said a “centre of excellence” at the Scarborough General would provide better pediatric and obstetric services to the community.

“Particular with obstetrics and birthing, we know that the higher the volume, the better the outcomes … for the mother and the baby,” he said.

“You want sites to have higher volumes.”

Toronto councillors, paramedics call on Ford government to reverse funding freeze for services

Toronto councillors, paramedics call on Ford government to reverse funding freeze for services

WATCH ABOVE: Three Toronto city councilors are appealing to the Ford government’s plans to reduce funding to paramedic services. They say Toronto is already 300 members short. Jamie Mauracher has more at City Hall.


Toronto councillors and the union representing Toronto paramedics condemned the Ford government‘s move to freeze funding for emergency services, saying the city is already facing a shortfall.

In a press conference on Friday morning, Mike Merriman, Toronto Paramedic Services unit chair for CUPE Local 416, said the funding freeze by the provincial government, which accounts to $3.8 million for services, is equivalent to around 60 fewer paramedics in the city.

“They (paramedics) cannot keep up with the ever-increasing call volume and the lack of staffing. We’re approximately 300 paramedics short as of today and we needed a mass infusion of paramedics yesterday,” Merriman said.

“Things are that bad. It’s taking us a lot longer to get to calls, and I truly believe public safety is at risk. People’s lives hang in the balance.”

WATCH: Toronto paramedics, councillors slam cuts by Ford government, call for reverse course

Last month, the province notified the City of Toronto that this year’s land ambulance grant funding would remain unchanged from 2018. Toronto Paramedic Services said the funding freeze would result in a $3.8 million shortfall or cut.

Jim Karygiannis, councillor for Ward 22, Scarborough-Agincourt, said he’s calling on Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet to rescind the move as it greatly affects response times for paramedics.

“If there’s a crisis in North Etobicoke and we need to get somebody to respond there, it will take an extra 15 per cent longer. That’s totally unacceptable,” Karygiannis said.

He urged residents to pick up the phone and personally call the premier. Karygiannis gave the premier’s personal phone number at the press conference.

Joe Cressy, councillor for Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York, added that councillors are sounding the alarm because they know less funding will make things worse, if not dangerous.

“This province, not only are they cutting funding from public health and impacting our ability to keep people healthy, they’re now cutting funding of $3.8 million to paramedic services,” Cressy said. “So they’re not helping us prevent diseases in the first place, and if you get sick, they’re making it harder for us to respond to help people.”

Last month, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced that Toronto Public Health was advised that the province would be slashing approximately $1 billion in funding over the next 10 years.


North Scarborough launches ‘Save the Grace’ campaign on hospital cuts

Scarborough Health Network says emergency room will remain

Scarborough-Mirror February 27, 2019  Mike Adler 
Save The Grace

Emergency Department nurse Jennifer Lerma argues on Feb. 25 against closing the Scarborough Health Network’s Birchmount campus pediatric and obstetric wards, while being joined on the panel by Dr. Lisa Salamon (left) and Dr. Raymond Shu during a “Save The Grace” meeting at the L’Amoreaux Community Centre. – Mike Adler/Metroland


Many people supporting Scarborough’s Birchmount hospital campus — “the Grace,” to those who work there or live in Agincourt — don’t believe the Scarborough Health Network’s  (SHN) promises about the future.