Despite eliminating over 350 staff and cutting care, beds and services in the last five years, North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) is “playing a rigged budget game that it will never win because the province isn’t funding the hospital at a sustainable level,” says Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
NBRHC said this week that another 30-40 hospital staff will need to be cut in 2017 in order to meet the province’s balanced budget requirement after it was penalized by the province for failing to balance the 2015-2016 budget, losing out on $7 million in funding. In addition, the hospital is struggling with inflationary costs like higher prices for drugs.
For the last eight years, the province has frozen base hospital funding, which in real terms says Hurley, is a significant budget cut. “The North Bay hospital has made cut after cut and it now simply reached its limits of capacity to function properly without the additional funding it needs from the province. To stop this cycle of staff and service cuts the Ontario government needs to inject a real funding increase into the NBRHC budget in 2017.”
The deck is also stacked against NBRHC, Hurley says because the province saddled it with a private-public partnership infrastructure model, which is more expensive to operate than other hospitals. Above the provincial average rates of poverty and patients with chronic illnesses, along with higher seniors and aboriginal populations, all contribute to the challenges faced by the hospital in North Bay which is “struggling to provide adequate patient care with insufficient funding. The province appears to be blissfully refusing to recognize the health demographics of the community and real costs of the infrastructure the hospital needs to maintain,” Hurley says.
According to Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data, Ontario spends 25.3 per cent less than the rest of Canada on hospital care. Provincial funding for the regional hospital in North Bay would need to increase by $23 million a year just to reach the average hospital funding level in the rest of Canada.
Hurley called on Nipissing MPP to “get vocal in the Ontario Legislature” so the Ontario Liberals deliver on the additional funding the North Bay hospital needs just to meet its basic costs which are rising around 5.3 per cent a year.