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OTTAWA – According to Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data between 2009 and 2014, patient readmissions at The Ottawa Hospital increased from 8.8 per cent to 9.6 per cent. The hospital’s readmission rate is higher than both the province-wide average (9.1 per cent in 2014) and the Champlain regional health network (8.7 per cent in 2014) that includes Ottawa and most of eastern Ontario. The Ottawa Hospital rate is also much higher than the Canadian average.

“This increase,” says Rob Driskell, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 4000 ― which represents staff at the Ottawa Hospital ― “reflects the impacts of four years of deep cuts to beds and services at The Ottawa Hospital. Without enough beds and staff, some patients are sent home before they are well and larger numbers are returning to hospital because they were too sick to have been discharged in the first place.”

Real funding cuts for hospitals, shortened inpatient stays, keeping patients out of hospitals altogether and downsizing hospital capacity are the focus of the Liberals’ health reforms. “There is a direct correlation, we believe, between the provincial budget cuts to the hospital and these readmission rates,” says Driskell. 

According to the data, hospital inpatient days have fallen 13.4 per cent over the last four years. In the rest of Canada (excluding Quebec) inpatient days, per-capita have actually increased 8.4 per cent over the last four years.

Last year’s announcement by The Ottawa Hospital that new moms and babies would be discharged after 24 hours, not after 48 hours is an example of the changes that have taken place, which may explain the spike in readmissions. This change to earlier discharge for new mothers and their babies was made despite a 2007 policy statement on post-partum maternal and newborn discharge by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) that says: “Early discharge from hospital post-natally increases the risk of neonatal mortality and morbidity….The neonate who is discharged at less than 48 hours is at greater risk than the mother.”

The SOGC’s statement references a large Washington study of neonatal mortality, which examined 47,879 births between 1989 and 1990. During this period, 9101 newborns were discharged before 30 hours of age. This group of newborns was found to have a significantly higher mortality rate in the first year of life than those newborns that stayed in hospital longer.

A study at the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario (now called the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre) that reviewed emergency room (ER) visits by newborns under nine days old, found that with early discharge (defined as less than 36 hours) the readmission rate for those seen in the emergency room was 33 per cent.

“This spike in readmissions at the Ottawa Hospital reinforces the experience of patients and their families captured in the report Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home, released in 2014/15. Each of these readmissions represents a setback or a tragedy for a family, physically, emotionally and economically.

“Readmissions also represent a huge cost to the healthcare system, because these cases typically require much longer stays. The Liberals have cut hospital budgets by 20 per cent over the last four years in real terms and now the hospital system, with the fewest beds available in the developed world is failing to properly heal an increasing number of people. The province needs to fund its hospitals properly,” says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)

Rob Driskel
President, CUPE 4000

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications