Former OHA President Tom Closson speaking at Longwood’s Breakfast With The Chiefs June 10.
The relentless pursuit of efficiency may be coming to an end for Ontario hospitals.
As former OHA chief Tom Closson said today at Longwood’s Breakfast With The Chiefs forum, year after year it gets more difficult for hospital CEOs to balance their budgets — “you can’t cut the same thing as you cut last year.”
This hardly means that hospitals are about to enter a new era of sustainable funding, especially in Ontario where public health care spending is already the lowest per capita of any Canadian province. Closson says Ontario hospitals also have the lowest worked hours per weighted case, the shortest length of stay in acute care, and the fewest beds per capita.
Have we found bottom yet?
Closson says we still have to reduce costs “because we have to.” Instead of seeking more efficiency, a new approach is needed.
Closson was joined by the Hay Group’s Mark Hundert and Chris Helyar to preach the new orthodoxy of appropriateness and to suggest that the HBAM (Hospital Based Allocation Model) of funding needs fixing.
When Health Minister Deb Matthews spoke at the closing of this year’s Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) HealthAchieve, the hall was two-thirds empty. Only two days before there was standing room only for Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield.
Attendance at the final morning of the OHA’s annual get-together is usually smaller than the preceding two days, but we’ve never seen it this sparse.
Former Health Minister George Smitherman could usually command a decent audience on the final day. For Deb Matthews, the reception might be connected to how hospital executives are feeling about the restraint they are under.
Two years ago the OHA reminded the province that the Harris Tories had planned three years of cost cutting at Ontario hospitals but had to abandon the effort after year two.
Not only did the Tories halt the last $507 million in cuts in 1998, but had to substantially increase their restructuring budget.
The OHA maintains those were days when hospitals could better afford the haircut.
Ontario municipalities may have a legitimate beef with the way hospitals pay taxes, but the timing couldn’t be worse.
All levels of government appear to be scrambling to make ends meet without having to pass increased costs on to citizens in the form of taxes. The results are one cash-strapped level of government going after another cash-strapped level of government.
Instead of paying municipal property taxes, universities, colleges, hospitals and detention centres pay something called a Heads and Beds payment.
The Heads and Beds rate has not changed since 1987 – a flat rate of $75 per head/bed.