When Charles Sousa unwraps his Ontario budget on Thursday there likely won’t be any new money for expanding hospital infrastructure.
Coming out of the Harris era, the McGuinty/Wynne government faced a considerable backlog of infrastructure needs, including updates to many Ontario hospitals.
To date there have been more than 100 major hospital infrastructure projects – or a project for two out of every three hospital corporations in the province. About a third of these projects have been costly long-term public-private partnerships where the private sector is responsible for the design, construction, financing and maintenance.
Paul Rosebush, CEO of the South Bruce Grey Health Centre told Bayshore Broadcasting that the economic forecast has raised some red flags that essentially mean that if you are not on the existing list for a rebuild, you won’t be.
It makes us wonder why so few hospital CEOs are willing to publicly go to bat for their institutions. It’s true that in the past public advocacy was not always met with great appreciation at Queen’s Park, which has the power to take over a hospital and deal with sticky problems in their own way. Joe De Mora’s time at the Kingston General Hospital certainly comes to mind.
With hospitals having experienced their first year of a base funding freeze, and with perhaps a second lurking in tomorrow’s provincial budget, CEOs are going to be under a lot of pressure by communities reluctant to give up health services – especially in tough economic times. With costs rising and increased demand on their doorstep, a freeze represents a significant real cut to hospitals. High profile job losses at Ontario hospitals are already part of the landscape. The question is, what will year two of this look like and who will stick their head out to say something?
While some CEOs are parroting the Queen’s Park line about restructuring, others are starting to get some traction on their issues.
Here’s a story we don’t see every day: South Bruce Grey Health Centre is cutting two of its four senior management positions as part of its efforts to deal with a budget deficit.
Contrast that with hospitals such as Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, which carved out a new advisory position for its departing CEO at a time when front line staff are bracing for tough times ahead.
The decision may have been slightly easier to make at SBGHC given two senior managers are retiring. However, as most front line workers already know, when you cut vacant positions, it still has an impact on the workload of those left behind.
SBGHC is one of the few hospitals to have weathered the last decade without consistently running into deficit. The fact that they are now forced to trim their sails owes a lot to a punitive new funding formula emerging from Queen’s Park. Small rural hospitals weren’t supposed to be part of that formula, but because SBGHC combines resources from four small hospitals together, they do.
The irony is that by consolidating their resources these four small hospitals are being penalized. For the Hanover hospital, which has somehow managed to stay out of SBGHC despite being located within the same geographic area, they must be breathing a sigh of relief.
When the province introduced its new hospital funding formula, it specifically highlighted its intention not to subject small rural hospitals to it.
Evidently when the Minister meant small, she meant very small.
South Bruce Grey Health Centre is reporting that the new hospital funding formula means they will be facing a $622,000 shortfall next year.
SBGHC is made up of four very small hospital sites in Walkerton, Durham, Kincardine and Chesley. With four hospitals, it’s total budget is about $41.7 million, of which $29.5 million comes directly from the Ministry of Health (another $6.3 million comes in MOH physician funding).
The community makes the argument that had these four hospitals not been amalgamated, they would not be subject to this punitive funding formula.
We sometimes get asked about how we come up with stories for the Diablogue? For us, it’s not a matter of finding stories, but prioritizing material culled from a fast-moving stream.
Last week we focussed on the outrageous decision by Canadian Blood Services to increase imports of American-sourced plasma products while closing the last dedicated Canadian plasma donor clinic in Thunder Bay.
However, there are many issues out there, and only limited BLOG time for us. Here’s just a taste of some of the stories we missed last week:
Part of the fallout from the provincial budget is the decision to postpone a number of capital projects, including new hospitals. Nowhere is this being more felt that in Grimsby, where the community is upset that the new $138.8 million rebuild of the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital has been put on the shelf. The “Rallying for WLMH Committee” has called for a “massive rally” May 2nd. When the hospital faced closure in 1997, more than 7,000 people came out in a similar planned rally.
A new CIHI (Canadian Institute for Health Information) report raised eyebrows when Lakeridge Health and the University Health Network came out at the bottom of list of GTA hospitals. Lakeridge (with sites in Oshawa, Port Perry, Bowmanville and Whitby) pointed out that according to CIHI data, they were doing better than the provincial average on six of seven clinical performance indicators. That includes 80 per cent better than the provincial average when it comes to readmission after hip replacement surgery, and 30 per cent better on knee replacement surgery. An on-line tool that CIHI developed to rate hospitals crashed after it was swamped with users following a front page story in the Toronto Star.
Now that hospitals are subject to Freedom of Information requests, how accessible will this information really be? It all depends on the hospital and how much money you have.
It cost us $1,637.76 to find out what the ratio of staff to management was at 20 hospital corporations. That includes the $5 processing fee it takes to initiate the request.
Hospitals came under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act on January 1st of this year, although the Ontario Hospital Association sought and received additional exemption from divulging quality information under specific circumstances.
For years we have heard front line staff complain that their numbers have dwindled while the ranks of management have increased. We decided to test that question with requests to 20 randomly selected hospitals where OPSEU represents members. This includes four mental health centres – Penetanguishene’s Waypoint Centre, Whitby’s Ontario Shores, London’s St. Joseph’s Health Centre (Regional Mental Health), and the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.
Posted in Health System, Hospitals
Tagged Bluewater Health, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, FIPPA, Freedom of Information, Grey Bruce Health Services, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hawkesbury and District Hospital, Health Sciences North, Hospital Freedom of Information, Kingston General Hospital, Niagara Health System, Ontario Shores, Peterborough Regional Health Centre, Quinte Health, Rouge Valley Health System, Royal Ottawa Health Group, South Bruce Grey Health Centre, The Ottawa Hospital, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences, Waypoint Centre, Windsor Regional Hospital, York Central Hospital