When compared with the rest of Canada the Ontario government’s $4.8 billion underfunding for hospitals, means skeleton hospital staffing and much less care for Durham Region patients, a report released today in Oshawa has found. The report (Fewer Hands, Less Hospital Care) compares funding, staffing, nursing, and readmissions in Ontario and other provinces.

Based on the latest figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Ontario government funding for hospitals is $1,395.73 per capita. The rest of Canada, excluding Ontario, spends $1,749.69 per capita. In other words, provincial and territorial governments outside of Ontario spend $353.96 more per person on hospitals than Ontario does. That is a whopping 25.3 per cent more than Ontario.

Overall there would be an additional 45,500 hospital employees, 15,200 of them nurses, in Ontario if funding was on par with the average for the rest of Canada.

The Fewer Hands, Less Hospital Care report found that for Durham Region, Ontario’s level of funding results is 675 fewer nurses and 2007 fewer people providing care in hospitals.

“The $4.8 billion shortfall in hospital funding in Ontario is counted in 6 hours less nursing care per patient in our hospital. Our hospitals, including in Durham Region have significantly higher readmission rates than the rest of the country because of our radically shortened lengths of stays,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

CIHI data shows that per capita expenditures on hospitals has declined for the last three years with real hospital funding cut by 10 per cent. Ontario has fallen a long way behind other provinces since the Liberals were elected in 2003 — and especially since the beginning of Liberal austerity in 2010.

This gap, has significant consequences for local communities and patients, says Pam Parks, president of CUPE 1999 at Lakeridge Health. “There are many patients turned away from hospital or sent home while still acutely ill and many more dying from hospital-acquired infections due in part to overcrowding. All the while shifting system costs to individuals, forcing them and their families to travel for treatment. We call on the provincial government to fund our hospitals, including Lakeridge Health, at the average of the rest of Canada.”

Average Ontario hospital funding for the population the size of Durham Region in 2005/6 would have been about $29 million less than average funding for the same population outside of Ontario. But by 2015/16 the funding shortfall for a population the size of Durham Region would have exploded to $215.3 million.