HAMILTON, ON – “The looming closure of Harbour North East #2, a 7 bed mental health treatment unit at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton is just the beginning of a series of coming cuts to hospital services,” warns Domenic DiPasquale, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 786, which represents 1,700 staff at the hospital.
Inadequate provincial funding for hospitals has fueled successive budget deficits and bed closures and service and staff cuts at St. Joe’s. This year that provincial funding shortfall is expected to be about $26,000,000. “That could translate into many staff reductions, since 85 per cent of all spending is on salaries, as well as more bed closures and program cuts,” says DiPasquale.
Hospitals across Ontario are cutting services in the face of a 5-year funding freeze imposed by the provincial Liberal government. An Ontario’s Auditor General report quotes studies which estimated that healthcare needs a 5.8 per cent increase in funding each year just to keep pace with the costs of drugs and medical technologies, which are rising faster than the general rate of inflation.
“Staff at the hospital are being crushed by provincial funding cuts on the one hand which are slashing our budgets, year after year, in real terms and an inexplicable, indefensible explosion in the ranks of supervisors and managers to direct a rapidly shrinking work force,” says DiPasquale.
4 years of provincial hospital budget cuts have reduced St. Joseph’s operating budget by over 20 per cent in real terms. Ontario hospitals were already the most efficient hospitals in the country with the fewest beds and staff and the shortest lengths of stay going into the budget freeze. Ontario spends $350 less per capita than any other province in Canada.
Ontario’s Liberals dropped the corporate income tax rate to the lowest in North America, and economists estimate that the province has lost nearly $20 billion in revenue. This drop in tax revenue triggered austerity in provincial expenditures including a 5-year funding freeze for Ontario hospitals, already the worst funded per capita in Canada.
“Ontario’s hospitals are the least expensive and most efficient in the country and they are starved of operating revenue. It’s time for the provincial government to provide hospitals with a real increase in funding,” says DiPasquale. “We are also asking the ministry to review the huge growth in non-essential supervisory and managerial staff at St. Joseph’s, which is happening while the front line workforce is being axed.”
For further information:
President, CUPE 786