Ontario hospitals: Only Mexico to pass to reach the fewest beds per capita

Here’s a given – as Ontario hospitals start to shed services and staff in the next three years, the government is inevitably going to proclaim the benefits of serving patients in the community.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information recently released a report showing Ontario has not only the fewest beds per capita in Canada, but the second least in the 34 country OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Only Mexico has fewer beds per capita – for now.

In fact, the number of Ontarians hospitalized in 2010-11 was not only the lowest in Canada, but it was down 33.5 per cent from what it was in this province during 1995-1996.

Tom Closson, the former Chair of the Ontario Hospital Association, told the Toronto Star June 22 that the province has lost 50 per cent of its hospital beds per capita over the last two decades.

Ontario has just two beds per capita for every 1,000 residents.

Two.

It’s no wonder that the government wants to clear patients out as quickly as possible following their acute care treatment.

The latest we are hearing is the government wants to shorten the stay following hip and knee surgery. By shortening the stay, they figure you won’t need physiotherapy while in the hospital.

This is a long way from the days when the Ministry was concerned about patients losing muscle mass while recovering in a hospital bed.

Of course they will tell you that the physio is just moving into the community. Just get yourself on that very long wait list at the Community Care Access Centre. Or perhaps you may want to pay for physio to get it a little faster, or perhaps at all?

With zero-based operating budgets, the hospitals are also going to put even more pressure on alternate level of care patients to get out sooner.

The last time the government strong-armed vulnerable patients to get out of their hospitals, there was a predictable backlash from families who were not happy about the choices they were given in the “community.”

Too often that “choice” is really “you look after grandma or grandpa at home. Never mind your job.”

In May the OHA passed on a memo from the Ministry about what to do about patients who refuse an offer of admission to a prior-chosen long-term care home bed.

Seems you can’t change your mind. There is no mention of how long ago you might have made that choice.

The OHC memo states “that an ALC patient in the hospital who does not move into an available bed in a LTC home to which the patient has previously applied within five days of the offer being made – may be discharged from the hospital” (subject to certain exceptions).

Patients who have been discharged but choose to remain in hospital may be charged an “unregulated rate” by the hospital.

“Unregulated rate?” Is that code for whatever punitive figure the hospital can come up with?

Closson tells the Star that because there are not enough of these community services, many patients who have been admitted to hospital end up staying there a long time.

However, the lack of community services will not deter further bed cuts.

Hospitals are already warning of another round of bed cuts this year.

Orillia Soldier’s Memorial Hospital is just one of many hospitals that say they are considering cutting beds to eliminate a projected deficit this year. In their case, they are looking to eliminate a $1.3 million deficit.

The hospital has already increased parking rates, cafeteria food prices, and “maximized” diagnostic imaging and laboratory revenues.

The changes go to their board July 31st.

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