Although the provincial budget dangled a 3.1 per cent funding increase for hospitals, from North Bay and Sudbury to Kenora and Thunder Bay and communities in between, the average funding increase for northern hospitals was 2 per cent – with one notable exception.
In northeastern Ontario, $23 million went to 25 hospitals. Twelve hospitals in northwestern Ontario received just over $9 million. Even hospitals with significant deficits saw a bare 2 per cent injection, well below the 3.1 per cent in the April budget. The Sault Area Hospital however has received a 3.8 per cent increase.
“While even that is too low, it’s much more than other northern hospitals received in communities where there is no provincial by‑election. It does beg the question, if the higher funding for the Sault hospital is political,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).
Hurley will be in Sudbury tomorrow (Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.) for a media conference (888 Regent Street, Suite 205) to provide an update on plans for a provincial health care rally in the city on June 8. OCHU continues to ask the provincial government for a 5 per cent funding increase for Ontario hospitals.
All northern Ontario hospitals face similar challenges, says Hurley, with higher than average chronic diseases, higher rates of cancer, worse mental health outcomes for children and youth in the north and higher percentage of seniors than the rest of the province. “There are also many more individuals without access to a family physician, lower incomes generally, and a large aboriginal population living without adequate housing or drinking water. All of these factors conspire with geography to punish northern Ontario and are reasons why funding must be increased to at least meet operating costs for northern hospitals.”