“It is understandable that former Finance Minister and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli is compelled to defend his government’s 2019 budget and their overall funding plan for hospitals. However,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE), “the reality of the funding allocated for the North Bay Regional Health Centre in the budget Mr. Fedeli himself delivered, is that the hospital will face a major cut when inflationary pressure and an aging population are factored in of about $4 million in 2019 alone. The funding falls far short of helping to end hallway health care.”
Responding to criticism by OCHU/CUPE that the Ontario Conservative government is cutting hospital budgets in 2019 in real terms, Mr. Fedeli recently pointed to the $4.5 million increase for the North Bay hospital in this year’s budget as evidence that the hospital’s funding has increased.
Mr. Fedeli, however, does not mention that this will not even offset inflationary pressures on the hospitals, never mind cost pressures arising from population, aging, and increased utilization.
Depending on what part of government funding you include, provincial funding for North Bay Regional Health Centre was reported at between $190 million and $226 million for 2017-18. So, $4.5 million is an increase of between 1.99 per cent to 2.36 per cent. But that is about $4 million short of what the North Bay hospital needs, just to stand still in 2019 due to cost pressures arising from inflation, population, and aging. With current government spending plans, the $4 million cut this year will compound in each of the next four years, leading to a budget cut, in real terms, of 15 per cent in 2023-2024.
“Which is why CUPE is predicting that the North Bay Regional Health Centre will have to cut 15 beds and 82 staff over the next five years,” says Hurley. “And why, when we overlay population growth and aging, the community of North Bay will be effectively 50 beds and 268 staff short by 2023.”
Another key factor to consider is that the North Bay hospital has higher operating costs because it is privately owned, having been built as a private public partnership facility. Typically, such hospitals are much more expensive to operate.
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