Sudbury-area MPPs call for moratorium on cuts to Laurentian
SUDBURY -- The cuts being made at Laurentian University will have a devastating impact on the region's health care if not reversed, says Sudbury area's two NDP provincial politicians, Jamie West and France Gelinas.
On Monday morning, they held a virtual news conference alongside midwifery student Abigail Roseborough, calling for a moratorium on the restructuring that's currently taking place.
"Our nursing school is being cut and our school for midwives is being eliminated. Because the Ford government is refusing to save Laurentian, our under-resourced health care sector could find it even harder to recruit badly-needed health-care staff in the future," West said.
The midwifery program has probably been the most publicized of the cuts. The French-language portion of the course was the only one of its kind in Ontario.
Roseborough said students have been given extremely little information as to what's going to happen next.
"These cuts at Laurentian have left us in limbo and we don't have a clear path to move forward," she said. "Throughout all the announcements that Laurentian had made, they made students feel as if they were safe and that it wouldn't affect students and gave us a false sense of hope."
Roseborough said no one in her program ever thought that midwifery would have been cut. It's a loss that came as a surprise to all involved.
"The option as a third-year (student) going into fourth-year that they're trying to push is that we complete our degrees under Laurentian's banner while taking our academic course through McMaster or Ryerson under a letter of permission," she said.
However, that might be easier said than done for some students.
Roseborough said her Indigenous funding allows her to be part of one school at a time. She'll have to do a complete transfer, which means she won't have grades on her transcript.
"We've seen through the pandemic that a lot of families have chosen to deliver at home and to deliver with a midwife in order to avoid going to the hospital. But when the midwives are not there, none of this is possible," Gelinas said.
The Nickel Belt MPP and health critic said it's the same thing for the School of Nursing, which lost its placement coordinator and some of its technicians.
"It's hard to become a midwife. It's hard to become a nurse. There's a lot of learning and if you don't have the right support around you, you're not going to make the final exam," she said.
Both Gelinas and West said the cuts to midwifery, for example, are hard to understand because the program brought money into Laurentian.
Laurentian said in a recent court affidavit that while the midwifery program received funding from the provincial government, it did not cover all of the costs associated with it.
"As financial support to post-secondary institutions generally is subject to the prerogative of the province and midwifery is an expensive program to run (relative to other programs), it is difficult for LU to solely rely on grant funding to continue operating the program," the university said.
"Further compounding matters is the fact that the (Ministry of College and Universities) has imposed an annual cap of 30 new students that may be accepted into the midwifery program at LU, which limits its potential growth. LU offered midwifery in English and French, and the enrollment cap applied to both programs overall."
The news conference comes just days ahead of when Laurentian must have the first phase of its restructuring plan in place as part of the insolvency process.
"I don't think it's ever too late," West said. "I don't know what the government is expecting by allowing the (Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act) process to go forward, but I think everyone can agree right now that it makes no sense. The outcome makes no sense."
He said a moratorium -- or at least a pause on the outcomes -- would give students a chance to be successful and would allow for the input of those affected. He also said it could lead to long-term solutions that wouldn't detrimentally affect health care in the north.
According to the provincial politicians, research has repeatedly shown leaving for post-secondary education makes it much less likely that those professionals will return to the region to work.
Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano avoided commenting on specifics around the Laurentian case on Friday citing a confidentiality clause put in place by the mediator.
Romano said all parties, including the Ontario government, have to respect the legal process.