Tag Archives: Hospital cuts

Transformation or austerity? Hospitals lose further capacity in new round of cuts

Photograph of large Kathleen Wynne puppet at the November rally against privatization of hospital services.

Protest last month over plans to contract hospital services to private clinics. Competitions have not been announced, but hospitals are cutting diagnostic and lab jobs, suggesting the government may be trying to achieve the same aim by stealth.

In October a Whitby nursing home experienced a major fire displacing more than 250 residents.

About 80 of those residents found temporary accommodation in area hospitals. Many are still there for lack of available alternative long term care spaces in the community. It’s remarkable the public hospitals were able to accommodate this many residents given the limited availability of beds.

Hospitals are presently in the third year of a base funding freeze. The Ontario government has maintained that the freeze is part of their overall health care transformation plan, but the Whitby experience would suggest that there is increasingly less flexibility due to funding shortfalls across the entire system. In another year or two how many beds will be available under a similar emergency?

The previous Auditor General of Ontario warned in 2011 that restraining annual health care funding increases to a proposed 3.6 per cent would lead to either service cuts or rising deficits. Instead we have seen health care funding increases limited even further to roughly 2 per cent.

In recent weeks a number of hospitals have been meeting with their respective unions to give notice of layoffs in the coming year. This is starting to become an annual holiday season tradition worthy of a Charles Dickens novel.

Continue reading

Confused and inconsistent PC position on health generates a big “huh?”

The Ontario Tories may want to look further than Tim Hudak for reasons behind their by-election losses over the summer. True, the PC leader consistently ranks behind the other two major party leaders in leadership polls, but give the voters credit for recognizing some glaring nonsense in the recent party platform.

Remarkably, over the summer the Tories decided that they would blame hospital cuts on the fact that the Liberals were overspending on health care. Yes — overspending.

Yet the PCs actually say they plan to spend even more than what the Liberals are projecting in their budget forecasts for health.

Oddly, last month PC Health Critic Christine Elliott told the Ottawa Citizen that spending increases on health care should be closer to three per cent annually. That’s much more than the Liberals have been projecting, not less.

Confused? You should be.

The Tories further risk credibility when they continually speak about six and seven per cent increases in funding when Ontario hospitals are going into their second year of a base funding freeze and overall health care funding increases have been limited to about 2 per cent.

That’s far from being frank with voters.

It’s true in the days when the Liberals were actually running consistent balanced budgets that health care spending was running in the six per cent range. But as Elliott and Hudak should have noticed, things have changed.

Even more lame is their threadbare argument that somehow all the funding woes could be solved by simply dissolving the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). The cost of maintaining all 14 LHINs is somewhere between $60-70 million per year. That’s about 0.2 per cent of the provincial health budget.

Yet the Tories also want to appoint dozens of regional hospitals as new administrative hubs that will replace the LHINs. Do they really think these hospitals can do regional planning, community consultation and enforce accountability without additional cost?

The Tories would like us to conveniently forget that they also said at one time they would implement all of Don Drummond’s recommendations, which included enhancing the LHINs, not giving them the boot.

For Ontario resident who can remember the Harris government, they may have been gob smacked by the recent interest the Hudak Tories have shown regarding staff cuts at The Ottawa Hospital (no doubt linked to polls in the Ottawa by-election). Hudak can talk about saving jobs, but he was part of the Harris government that closed 28 hospitals and axed 6,000 nursing jobs digging out of the previous recession in the 1990s.

Before painting the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals as big spenders when it comes to health, the Tories may want to look at what’s happening in the rest of the world. Among OECD nations, Canada has done far better than most at restraining health care costs over the last decade — often at a cost to quality. Within the Canadian federation, Ontario remains among the stingiest when it comes to per capita health spending.

When the Tories misrepresent the situation to voters and flip-flop on their promises, they also raise key questions of trust.

The McGuinty/Wynne government certainly has many weaknesses when it comes to the health file. Spending too much is not one of them.

Smiths Falls and Perth communities tackle deep hospital cuts

Two community meetings around cuts to the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital drew significant crowds this week.

Cuts at the two-site rural hospital corporation are particularly severe. The Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital is seeking to find 6 per cent in savings primarily through reductions to health resources used by the community, including a cut of 12 beds, six at each site.

This is only the beginning given every hospital is struggling with zero-based budgeting from the province that is expected to impact the bottom line to 2016-17. The situation is made worse at hospitals like Perth and Smiths Falls due to the simultaneous implementation of a new funding formula that doesn’t appear to appreciate the unique demographic demands of the region.

The Health Minister and local opposition MPP Randy Hillier say services are not being cut, but are being reallocated. But is this really true?

The cuts include physiotherapy where the equivalent of more than three full-time positions will be lost at the hospital.

Numerous provincial reports have acknowledged that seniors are having trouble connecting with publicly funded physiotherapy.

Last week it was the turn of Dr. Samir Sinha, the provincial lead on Ontario’s Seniors Strategy. Sinha called for more publicly funded physiotherapy in the community, but the last OHIP-licensed private physiotherapy clinic to open in Ontario was in 1964. Health Minister Deb Matthews has been silent on this issue despite cuts to physiotherapy in about half of Ontario’s hospitals during the past year. This is one more.

Continue reading