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.
Tory MPP Randy Hillier is the Rob Ford of rural Ontario. He often makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.
His hatred of unions seems to be trumping common sense these days. Hillier recently wrote an editorial in the local media aligning his views with those of Health Minister Deb Matthews. Whereas most MPPs would stand up for their local hospital, Hillier is supporting deep cuts to the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital most likely because it is the local unions that are raising the alarm. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with an election likely on the horizon for 2013.
Hillier has bought Matthew’s inaccurate assertion that hospital cuts simply represent a transfer of services to community-based providers. We see Matthews’ interest is saving her own skin amid the obvious effects of austerity on Ontario’s health care system, but what’s in it for Hillier?
Perhaps Hillier should have a conversation with his own caucus members. Last year fellow Tory MPP John O’Toole characterized the government’s “Home First” initiative as the “Home Alone” initiative during a visit by the Ontario Health Coalition. Have they had a last-minute conversion to the Liberal cause?
The peer review is done, but the details around the 6 per cent in cuts to the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital are still somewhat sketchy. The cuts are to deal with a $2.6 million operating deficit at the hospital.
Among the many cuts will be closure of 12 beds at the hospital.
The unions that represent employees at the hospital have been given some idea of the impact after receiving notice of layoffs and reductions in hours. For OPSEU, the biggest reduction is in physiotherapy – the equivalent of more than three full-time positions is being lost. In addition OPSEU is losing one full-time professional in diagnostic imaging and scaling back hours for a dietitian, health records and a staff member assigned to assist victims of sexual assault and violence.
Other positions that are either being lost or reduced include nurses in the operating room, obstetrics, emergency room, and on the medical/surgical floor. Community members will find it more difficult to get through to the hospital switchboard, with hours scaled back, along with other impacts on purchasing, housekeeping, food services, rehab, patient registration, discharge and finance.
Staff of the Perth and Smiths Fall District Hospital were told today CEO Todd Stepaniuk has resigned. Stepaniuk, who helmed the organization for 12 years, appears to have lost a battle with his board over the hospital’s performance improvement plan.
Staff was told that Toronto East General Hospital CEO Rob Devitt will be instead leading a four-member peer review team to find ways to eliminate a rising deficit at the district hospital. Last year the hospital finished with a $700,000 deficit, expected to rise to more than $2 million this year. Devitt’s team will begin their work July 13 with their recommendations expected in September.
The hospital was supposed to submit a performance improvement plan (PIP) to the South East LHIN in May, but the board rejected the proposals brought forward by Stepaniuk and the Senior Management Team.