Overnight hospital closures in Port Colborne, Fort Erie draw protests


Published July 6, 2023 at 11:20 am

Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates, light shirt, joined in the protest outside the Fort Erie Urgent Health Care unit yesterday. Many of the protestors wore bright yellow shirts that simply said "No." (Photo: Wayne Gate Twitter)

As of yesterday (July 5), the hospitals in Fort Erie and Port Colborne went dark from 10 pm to 10 am as overnight services were cancelled.

That drew protests out front of both facilities as citizens showed up during the day to voice their displeasure.

Both Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch and Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates are decrying the overnight closures, which were announced by Niagara Health on May 31 as a measure to keep its three emergency departments operating in Welland, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.

However, Gates, whose riding also covers Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, says the crisis is being driven by healthcare cuts from the Doug Ford government.

“Our message is simple – reducing the hours of care at the Fort Erie Urgent Care Centre is unacceptable. People’s lives will be at risk. This government created the staffing crisis in our healthcare system, it’s time they fix their mess,” Gates said yesterday.

“Today is just the beginning and the only way we win is together. That type of community solidarity is how we save our healthcare system.”

Burch, who has both the Port Colborne and Welland hospitals in his riding, was equally critical of the government healthcare cutbacks yesterday, saying, “People deserve to have healthcare services close to home when they need them. Over the last several months, we’ve seen after-hour emergency surgical services removed from the Welland Hospital and starting today, the Port Colborne and Fort Erie Urgent Care had their hours reduced.”

He added that the Lake Erie side of Niagara – the south end – is underserviced with the overnight closures.

“Around 10,000 people in Port Colborne are without a family physician, and folks that rely on the Port Colborne and Fort Erie Urgent Care Centres will need to travel to other facilities in Niagara which often already operate above 100 per cent capacity. South Niagara families are being disproportionately impacted.”

In announcing Niagara Health’s decision in late May, President and CEO Lynn Guerriero says it is a necessary step to maintain emergency departments in the region.

“The priority for us and the commitment we are making to the community is that we will do everything we can to keep our emergency departments open so those being Welland, Niagara Falls, and St. Catharines. In order to do that, we have to have the ability to redeploy some of our physicians who would normally work overnight in the urgent care centres to work in our emergency departments.”

As it is, in July and August alone, the health unit said their emergency departments will be short 274 physician shifts and scrambling to fill the holes.

Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch, centre, joins the protest out front of Port Colborne Hospital yesterday. (Photo: Jeff Burch Facebook)

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