Among OECD, only Mexico has fewer per capita hospital beds than Ontario

There are some that would like to portray labour and many of our community partners as being reactionary towards the shift of services from hospital to the community.

The reality is labour actually represents substantial numbers of members in the community health care sector.

We’re not anti-community – in fact we believe that the community sector is not nearly robust enough.

The problem comes with the cuts to the hospital system. The evidence would suggest that hospitals have already taken the cuts to enable the transfer of funding to the community sector. In lay terms, we already gave at the office.

Yet we continually hear the call as if Ontario were top-heavy in spending on hospitals. In fact, per capita funding for hospitals is among the least in Canada.

This idea of transferring services is not new.

In fact, it was the Rae government that really got the process rolling and encouraged other provinces to follow. When Bob Rae arrived in the Premier’s seat Canada had 6.7 hospital beds per 1,000 residents. By the time he left, we were down to 4.8 per thousand.

Today Ontario has approximately 31,000 hospital beds for a population of 12.85 million. That means we have a bed for about every 414 residents of this province, or slightly better than 2.4 beds per thousand.

That’s well below the Canadian average of 3.9 per thousand.

In fact, if Ontario were a OECD nation, we would be only better than Mexico in the number of hospital beds per thousand (1.1).

Is it any wonder our hospitals are jammed and that patients have to plead their case to stay there amid incredible pressure to discharge?

This week the Sudbury Star is reporting surgeons at Health Sciences North are going “cap in hand” to the Local Health Integration Network to plead their case for more money.

They note that while there is sufficient wait times funding for joint replacements as well as cataract, cancer and cardiac procedures, the wait lists for other surgeries are growing with the freeze on funding to hospital base budgets.

That includes, according to the Sudbury Star, “everything from gynaecology and urology surgeries to gallbladder removal, hernia repair and back surgeries.”

Sudbury joins the growing ranks of hospitals in which the squeeze on funding is clearly affecting their ability to serve their communities.

While we have calculated the impact of the freeze representing at least 3.2 per cent of a hospital’s budget, the Sudbury doctors say the impact is closer to 6 per cent.

Recently the Ontario Hospital Association criticized the provincial government over the lack of a plan for hospitals. What is the goal in terms of beds per thousand?

Is it really Ontario’s intention to get down to Mexico’s level in terms of the number of hospital beds per thousand? Maybe Health Minister Deb Matthews should share that goal with us so we at least have some idea of how bad that end state will eventually be. Then we can make a decision about that plan come the next election.

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