It’s always been an odd concept to us to separate out hospitals from other community-based providers. If hospitals are not operating in their communities, where the heck are they operating? It also makes little sense when the watchword these days is “integration.”
The reality is that hospitals are health care citadels within their communities and attract far more community involvement than some of the so-called private for-profit “community-based” health care providers the government seems to be taken with.
Walk into the lobby of any hospital and you’ll likely see an information desk with volunteers from the community sitting behind it. If you’ve had heart surgery recently, you’ll have probably received a visit by a hospital volunteer who is there to answer your questions. Community volunteers are key to making fundraising foundations work for hospitals. Hospitals likely couldn’t function without them.
Unlike some of the province-wide private agencies, hospital boards are mostly made up of people who live in the community. They are much closer to the local communities than say the boards of the non-profit St. Elizabeth Healthcare or the for-profit Bayshore Home Health.
It is therefore with great interest that we note not all home and community care providers are receiving increases this year despite the government’s rhetoric about shifting services away from hospitals. That’s because some of this work is actually done by hospitals.
In the last provincial budget home and community care providers were to receive a four per cent increase – the largest increase among all health providers. Delay in approving funding for home care has meant that the money to this sector has arrived very late this year, resulting in some of the Local Health Integration Networks having to reallocate the money before it has barely touched their hands.
The irony of starving public hospitals while funding mostly private for-profit community-based agencies is that public hospitals not only serve their communities, but they also operate beyond their walls in what most would consider as home care work.
When we were in Ottawa last week, George Weber, CEO of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, told us he was receiving no increase in funding for the ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) teams that visit client homes to provide mental health support. These workers rarely even see the inside of a hospital. Yet because of their connection to the hospital, they suffer under the same freeze to base budgets.
On the list of priorities the ACT teams would tick-off two boxes – one for community-based work, the other for mental health.
Clearly the Ministry has not thought this policy through.