Far from the funding bonanza heralded by Ontario’s health minister, yesterday’s $7 million allocation for 56 small and rural hospitals is a “paltry, wholly inadequate amount for hospitals that, because of provincial underfunding, have been forced to cut patient care considerably,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Ontario has steadily and aggressively cut funding for hospital care despite estimates cited by the Ontario Auditor General that calculate health care needs a 5.8 pour cent increase annually to meet basic costs. Now into the fourth year of a five-year funding freeze for hospitals, Ontario has the fewest hospital beds (per capita) of any province.
Smaller hospitals, like Pembroke where five medical and two pediatric beds were cut recently, have been “harshly and disproportionately affected,” Hurley says.
The $7 million in funding for 56 hospitals amounts to $125,000 per hospital. That’s about 3 and a half one hundredth of one per cent increase in the overall (provincial) hospital spend.
“It must be very humiliating for these hospital administrators to say thank you to the province for the miniscule sum they are receiving. They know hospital cuts amount to millions of dollars more and home and community care is massively underfunded. Patient care is indeed affected. The health minister knows this too and he should stop pretending otherwise,” says Hurley.
OCHU, along with local health coalitions, will, until hospital funding is restored, intensify efforts to mobilize community opposition to the provincial Liberals’ hospital funding cuts.
For the last month, OCHU has released a patient hotline report in more than a dozen northern Ontario communities where severe hospital cutbacks are exacerbated by socio-economic conditions, more prevalent chronic medical conditions and lower life expectancies.
OCHU, the hospital division of the CUPE Ontario, represents over 30,000 hospital staff province-wide.
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