There is overwhelming support among Hamilton residents for a significant funding increase for hospitals and long-term care homes, a poll released today found 93.5 per cent of the 855 respondents polled, say they would support a real funding increase of at least five per cent for hospitals. Asked whether they support a funding increase for Hamilton area long-term care homes, 89.1 per cent said, “yes”.

The poll conducted on January 22, 2017 surveyed residents 20 years and older about the health system with a direct focus on Hamilton hospital and long-term care funding from the province.

Ontario spends the least amount of money of any of the provinces on its long-term care and hospitals. Research data shows the other provinces spend 25 per cent more than Ontario on hospitals. Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office estimates hospitals need about a 5.3% annual increase to meet their basic costs, driven higher than inflation by drugs and medical technologies. Following clear signs of system strain and almost universal agreement among stakeholders that health funding is too low in Ontario, in 2016 the province relented with a small increase (about two per cent) to hospital budgets.

“But that small increase,” said Dave Murphy president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 7800 which represents more than 4000 hospital staff at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) “is not enough to make a dent on inflationary pressure like rising drug and equipment costs and years of cuts to budgets.  In real terms hospital funding has been cut by nearly 30 per cent in the last decade. That’s a lot of beds and services cut and we are seeing that with our hospitals at nearly 120 per cent capacity. There is immense appetite for immediate change to the province’s severe underfunding of hospital care.”

84.5 per cent responded yes to the question: Would you support increased funding for Hamilton hospitals in 2017? The high result, shows “there is immense appetite for immediate change – this budget year – to the province’s severe underfunding of hospital care,” says Domenic DiPasquale president of CUPE 786 at St. Joseph’s Healthcare.

In addition to solid support for hospital funding increasing by at least five per cent, nearly 83 per cent of those polled support stable, yearly funding increases equivalent to operating costs.

“Our hospitals are lurching from funding announcement to funding announcement, which are far too low. So this public support for a long term stable funding formula is very obvious. We encourage our health minister to take note of this,” said DiPasquale. Equally noteworthy he says is that over 71 per cent of poll respondents are younger than 60 years old. “This is a huge demographic group. It signals that health care is a major concern for younger Ontarians, not just seniors.”

In comparison to other provinces, Ontario funds long-term care among the lowest levels. With many cuts to hospitals, long-term care homes “are very quickly being turned into complex continuing care hospitals without any additional staffing. But funding for the additional care residents need has followed. On top of that there are thousands of area seniors on wait lists for a bed. Our community is tuned into these gaps in care and they want provincial funding increases to reflect the actual care needs of the people who live in Hamilton,” said Heather Neiser a personal support worker in long-term care.

This coming February 6 at 12:00 noon, a community rally focused on increased funding for hospitals and long-term care, is planned at Hamilton’s General Hospital site. When asked whether they support the rally goal of increased funding for hospitals and long-term care, over 90 per cent of respondents said, “yes”.

“This support for higher funding and care is great news,” said Neiser.