Already funded and staffed at levels well below other provinces, Ontario’s hospitals’ hallway medicine and bed crisis will deepen under Premier Doug Ford’s public service “efficiency” program and promised tax cuts, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) warned today in North Bay.
OCHU, the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU/CUPE), has crunched the numbers on three key Ford proposals and their impact on many community hospitals across the province including North Bay’s hospitals.
According to OCHU’s report, Hallway Medicine: It Can Be Fixed, which looked at the implications of Ford’s promised $7 billion tax plan, balanced budget commitment and a 4 per cent public service “efficiency” program, North Bay’s hospitals would see a loss of 21 to 37 more beds and between 71 and 156 jobs.
“We can end hallway medicine by making investments to meet the needs of an aging and growing population. These additional investments are not permanent, but they are needed for the life of the baby boom generation. North Bay’s hospital, already dealing with overcapacity and years of underfunding, will not be able to maintain the quality of patient care in the face of demographic pressures without these investments,” says OCHU President Michael Hurley.
During this spring’s election campaign, the Conservatives promised to end “hallway medicine” and committed that there would be no public-sector layoffs. However, adding up the revenue and spending cuts, across Ontario, 3,712 hospital beds and 16,418 hospital jobs could be cut to meet the target of a balanced budget.
Ontario patients, forced to spend days in hallways on gurneys and sent home while still acutely ill, are symptoms of ongoing hospital budget cuts and the elimination of 18,000 beds. Hospitals have been funded below their real costs for over a decade and their capacity has collapsed as a result.
The OCHU/CUPE research makes several recommendations for ending hallway medicine including, funding hospitals at their actual costs; opening acute, complex continuing care and long-term care beds to deal with overcrowding; investing in mental health and addictions; and stepping away from restructuring and privatization.
“There is more than enough evidence in Ontario that hospital restructuring and privatization has wasted billions of scarce dollars over the last decade,” says Hurley.