Peterborough’s regional hospital is losing more staff positions.
The good news is the hospital administration isn’t at least pretending these new cuts are about “transformation” of the health system as the Health Minister and Premier have repeatedly claimed elsewhere.
The government’s ongoing funding freeze to base hospital budgets means 53 more positions are being eliminated in Peterborough, many of these already vacant positions. In 2010 Peterborough eliminated close to 300 full-time equivalent positions to deal with a mounting deficit and meet its accountability obligations to the Local Health Integration Network.
The Peterborough Regional Health Centre’s board chair told the Peterborough Examiner “when you are getting 0% increases and you have to absorb inflation and other cost increases plus pay off our debt, it’s getting tougher every year.”
In his pre-election report in 2011, the Auditor General of Ontario described the government’s decision to limit health care funding increases to 3.6 per cent as “aggressive,” suggesting it would lead to a choice between hospital deficits and cuts to services. A 3.6 per cent increase now seems like the Halcyon days in this province, overall health care budget increases now limited to 2 per cent. None of that 2 per cent is applied to hospital base budgets, the government instead maintaining the fiction that it is being instead reallocated in the community as part of that “transformation.”
With no increase in base funding, true to the Auditor General’s prediction, we are now seeing both service cuts and the return to large hospital deficits across Ontario. The Scarborough Hospital, for example, is battling a $16-18 million deficit.
While Peterborough’s staff may find some small comfort that nobody will likely be walked out the door (or so the hospital claims), it does mean increased workload again for the front line. Is there any end to this? Increased workload has a direct impact on the quality of patient care.
That became evident in London this week when an 80-year man old complained he had to clean his own toilet in the absence of staff on the ward. When he came out of his room, he could initially find no one.
In Peterborough, this means 53 fewer people in the hospital.
The hospital’s plan also includes a squeeze on both overtime and sick days, the hospital saying it wanted to reduce the average number of sick days from 10 to six, which it claims would be among the best of peer hospitals. That may be difficult to achieve if they plan to also increase workload and stress at the hospital.
Oddly, CEO Ken Tremblay insists that even with the cuts, including 28 nursing positions, that there will still be more registered nurses and registered practical nurses in the building than there were in the previous year. Really?
If we are reading this story correctly, Peterborough spent a lot of time eliminating about 300 full-time equivalent positions, many of them nurses, then turned around and hired some more nurses. Now they are again eliminating some of those nurses. It’s true that operational requirements may mean a change in the overall mix, but perhaps the hospital should come clean and disclose what it is costing to eliminate jobs and then hire them back again and then eliminate them again. They might just find an efficiency or two in this process.