By AWAKENING STAFF
ORILLIA, Ontario—Starting about six years ago, Ontario Lottery & Gaming (OLG) allowed the layoff of over a dozen nurses working at Casino Rama. At the time, OLG expected Orillia Soldier’s Hospital to take up the slack created by OLG’s nurse layoff.
But just when it seemed the dust had settled from such job cuts at the casino, more nurse layoffs followed—at the hospital. What’s going on here?
Over the last couple of months, Ontario’s Ministry of Health began laying off the nurses from Orillia Hospital, of all places, a development that inspired area residents to recently sign a petition objecting to this latest round of layoffs. Proving that the layoff of the casino nurses a few years ago put additional pressure on the health care system, OLG came forward with money to compensate for the layoffs of casino’s nurses.
Before the layoff of the Casino Rama nurses, these same nurses were involved in treating emergencies and applying preventative medicine to tens of thousands of casino employees and customers—duties which only registered nurses could legally administer.
Is the privatization of Canada’s widely valued public health system around the corner? Does this indicate that Canada, like the UK, may be starting to abandon its traditional single-payer healthcare system, in order to opt for the complex, confusing, profit-driven system like that of the U.S.? These questions are being probed and our leaders need to provide some answers.
Just for starters, The Awakening wants MPP Patrick Brown (official opposition leader) to ascertain how much money the OLG made from Casino Rama during the time of the nurses’ layoffs, as well as the amount of money redirected from the nurses to the coffers of the OLG, due to the layoffs.
We would also like Mr. Brown to divulge who inside the OLG authorized laying off the Casino Rama nurses in the first place.
The Awakening has in its files a reply from a letter sent to Paul Godfrey who chaired the OLG during the time of the layoffs of Casino Rama nurses (2010 to 2013). The reply was written by one of Mr. Godfrey’s subordinates (a Mr. Flynne).
The letter to Mr. Godfrey detailed actions taken by Penn National, the U.S.-based corporate operator of Casino Rama. Back then, Penn placed additional pressure on the nurses, and subsequently on Orillia Hospital. All of this endangered and continues to endanger the health and well-being of employees and customers.
One of the unresolved chronic problems (shared with Mr. Godfrey) consists of hazards which have placed a cloud over the death of one Casino Rama employee and the serious illness of another. Both received head trauma from workplace hazards (e.g., poorly placed signs with sharp edges) which still endanger Casino Rama employees and customers.
Mr. Flynne stated the actions and decisions made under the roof of Casino Rama were made by the operators of Casino Rama—Penn National.
Some may find it troubling that a U.S. corporation, Penn, has been given the liberty to make decisions which directly affect Canada’s health care system, resulting in reduced protection of the health and safety of employees and customers at Casino Rama.
The Awakening suggests MPP Brown demand that the money the OLG received from the Casino Nurses layoff be given immediately to Orillia’s Soldiers Memorial Hospital, to make up for the funding shortfalls.
Unfortunately it appears that the limited powers Mr. Godfrey was given while chairing the OLG appear to be the same limited powers in his position as President of Postmedia, in which he has been unable to persuade his Postmedia reporters at Orillia’s Packet & Times newspaper to do a story on the nurse “down-loading” scandal, where Casino Rama’s nursing cuts had to be down-loaded onto Orillia hospital, as noted.
Mr. Godfrey occupied both positions, OLG chair and Postmedia president, at the same time—a clear conflict of interest since OLG gambling revenues go to Canada’s media outlets for advertising a government monopoly.
Yet, not one elected member questioned the conflict involving millions of dollars going to media outlets, including Godfrey’s Postmedia, for advertising lottery tickets, during the same time that Godfrey chaired the OLG.
Perhaps MPP Brown is afraid of the media’s wrath if he dares suggest that that OLG stop advertising a monopoly (lottery tickets) and re-direct the money to replenish the Harness Horsemen’s purse money, as well as return funds to our public health care system.
Even more puzzling is why the UNIFOR union now representing Casino Rama employees would not allow Awakening staff to enter a union meeting in late 2015 and share information about key issues, which, if properly and quickly addressed, may save Casino Rama’s existence and stop further injuries to the casino’s staff and customers.