Hudak plan to tender support services will divert almost 10% of hospital budgets from front line care to administration.
“Ontario’s hospital system will not be sustainable under a Progressive Conservative (PC) plan to impose contract competition for support services in the public sector,” says Michael Hurley, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) president.
In every jurisdiction where compulsory tendering has been introduced, administration costs have risen as hospitals divert resources to a new and bloated bureaucracy which oversees the tendering process. “The Conservatives rail against the costs of the LHINs, but their plan to force tendering for support services would drive up administration costs at the expense of front line care. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service administrative costs have jumped from five per cent in the 1990’s to 14 per cent today as a result of contract tendering and privatization” says Hurley.
Ontario’s hospitals are already the most efficient in Canada, with the fewest number of beds and staff to population of any province. Ontario spends $250 less per citizen on hospital care than any other province. Support staff budgets have been cut consistently for the past twenty years.
The Conservatives’ plan would require public sector workers like support staff in hospital dietary and laundry departments—85 per cent of them women—to compete with multinational corporations for their own jobs. In most communities across Ontario, ravaged by free trade and mill and plant closures, the largest employer is now the hospital. “The Conservatives are proposing to replace as many as 50,000 modestly-paid, hospital support jobs with much lower paying ones. Across the public sector, the toll could be as high as 300,000. The economic impact on our communities will be enormous. There is something grotesque about a proposal to drive huge numbers of people into poverty to further enrich multinational corporations.”
Hospital-acquired infections kill 12,000 people in Canada each year. In British Columbia, after the province contracted out hospital cleaning, hospital-acquired infection rates increased by 40 per cent in the first year. “And they have remained at that level. Contractors skimped on cleaning products, diluting disinfectants to the point that they became ineffective. The low wages contractors pay cleaning staff lead to high staff turnover. This was the unintended consequence of the privatization of hospital support services,” says Hurley.
Collective agreements, covering nearly 65,000 hospital workers, saw wage settlements one-third lower than prevailing public sector settlements when negotiated. “It is not the wages of hospital support workers that are driving up heath care costs, but the wholly-privatized, for-profit parts of the system—profits to the corporations running long-term care and home care, P3 hospitals (30 per cent more expensive to operate), drugs and technology. The PC plan would take an axe to the wrong budget line, introduce a new corpulent level of bureaucracy, and badly hurt people and communities that are trying to survive,” says Hurley.
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