Liberals’ plan will downsize services, union suggests

Lost in the debate about whether to locate the new Ottawa Hospital Civic campus on the Experimental Farm or at Tunney’s Pasture is the question of who will own the new hospital facility, CUPE suggested today.

The provincial Liberal government strongly encourages private-public-partnerships (P3s) as the development model for new mega-hospitals. The Ontario auditor found that this “private” capital approach is costing Ontarians over $8 billion more than if the projects were built using a public model.

“The first question that Ottawa should deal with is whether the financing and ownership model of the new hospital will compromise services. Site should come second,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE.

Brampton is an example of a community that too quickly embraced the idea of a new hospital, “without questioning what the ownership model would mean for beds, staffing and services. Now Brampton has a hospital with too few beds and staff to meet its community’s needs. We should not be repeating the mistake here in Ottawa. Ownership of the hospital is important and it should be public, from construction to operation,” says Hurley.

The provincial Liberals imported the concept of private-public-partnerships from the United Kingdom. The British Medical Association Journal published a number of studies showing that hospitals built through private financing and ownership will typically have about 30 per cent fewer staff and fewer beds.

This is the experience in Brampton and “not what our community needs,” says Rob Driskell, president of CUPE 4000, representing more than 3800 Ottawa area hospital workers. “With P3s, infrastructure and borrowing costs are so much higher than publicly owned and financed facilities. These extra costs eat into core services and ultimately affect patient care.”

Driskell says expanding care at the hospital’s newly built trauma centre should be the priority. “Squandering provincial funding on the additional costs tied to a P3 hospital construction will mean less resources, less staff and less patient care. So the important choice is that it be public built and owned.”