Flat drawing of hospital with big scissors ready to cut it in halfAnnual funding for Ontario’s hospitals must increase by at least 8% in this year’s budget to address the staffing and capacity crisis linked to ER closures, overcrowded hospitals, and delayed surgeries and diagnostic procedures, says CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, OCHU-CUPE.

“Ontario’s hospital staff and patients can’t cope with another year of government real budget cuts,” said Michael Hurley, president of OCHU-CUPE. “Tomorrow’s budget must add desperately needed staff and capacity in our public hospitals to ensure patients receive quality care in real time. We call on the government to commit to follow in the footsteps of British Columbia’s hospital staff-to-patient ratios, which would be a huge help with nurse retention, and improve patient care significantly and lower morality rates as evidenced by the example of California.”

Last year, an OCHU-CUPE research report highlighted that hospitals need 60,000 additional staff over four years to add sufficient bed capacity and meet rising demand, necessitating an annual hospital budget increase of at least five per cent beyond inflation. In 2024, that equates to an eight

per cent enhancement and would help hospitals overcome fiscal deficits in response to government underfunding.

Hurley said that recent job cuts at Lakeridge Health in Durham foreshadowed the possibility of other hospitals resorting to layoffs, which would be devastating for the public.

“Almost every hospital we represent is in deficit and poised to make cuts,” he said. “Yet these same hospitals are facing increasing demands for care. As our population ages and grows additional funding is required, cuts mean that Ontarians will be denied timely access to care and some of them will just not survive that.”

Facts about Ontario hospitals’ staffing and capacity crisis

  • Last year, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario noted that the government spending plan through to 2027-28 would be grossly insufficient and diminish hospital capacity.
  • As cited in OCHU-CUPE’s Hospital Crisis report from last year, Ontario’s hospitals have 38 per cent less in-patient staff than hospitals in other Canadian provinces. To match other provinces, Ontario’s hospitals would need to add almost 34,000 staff.
  • Overcrowding in hospitals, or “hallway health care,” has increased by 30% since the Ford government came into power with an average of 1,326 patients receiving care in unconventional spaces in hospitals every day compared to 1,087 in 2018.
  • According to CIHI data, Canada as a whole (including Ontario) has 7.7% more hospital beds per capita than Ontario.
  • The government’s wage suppression policy has exacerbated increases in the use of agency staff in hospitals. The Canadian Press reports almost $1 billion was spent by hospital and long-term care facilities in 2022/3. The use of agency staff is reported to have increase 123% between 2021/2 and 2022/3.
  • A recent Nanos survey of OCHU-CUPE hospital workers showed that poor working conditions were greatly harming mental health, with 62% saying they were exhausted; 41% reported dreading going to work; and 44% said they had trouble sleeping.