TORONTO, ON — While diverting attention to populist programs like the sale of wine in grocery stores, Ontario’s Liberals “have made deep cuts to patient and resident care, funding health services well short of aging, inflation and population growth cost pressures,” says Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)/CUPE.
At the same time as cuts to patient and resident care have deepened, says Hurley, Ontario has lowered corporate taxes to the lowest of any province or state in North America. “It’s incomprehensible that the Liberals are cutting nursing care and closing hospital beds and programs to fund corporate tax levels lower than Alabama’s or Arkansas’. Ontario must generate new revenue by increasing the taxes on corporation and reinvesting in health care staffing and services.”
Ontario provincial health care funding has been falling as a percentage of total provincial government program spending and as a share of the economy. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) estimates that total health funding by the Ontario government is only going up by about $352 million this year — or about 0.7 per cent. Funding is falling far behind cost pressures from population growth, population aging, inflation, and increased utilization.
In 2015-16, Ontario hospital funding is $1,395.73 per capita while in the rest of Canada it is $1,749.69. That’s 25.4 per cent more funding for hospital care, says Hurley.
Ontario will release the 2016 budget on February 25 and “the Liberal government must stop the deep cuts to patient care. Staffing levels should increase at least to the Canadian average. Funding for hospitals must increase by 5 per cent in order to overcome the 25.4 per cent shortfall in spending compared to the rest of the country,” says Hurley.
The consequences of too low funding for health care, is that Ontario hospital patients receive 6.1 hours less nursing care than the rest of Canada.
Currently Ontario has the lowest registered practical nurse (RPN) staffing in Canada. Ontario has 1.11 practical nurses working in hospitals per 1000 population while the rest of Canada has 1.74. In other words, the rest of Canada now has 57 per cent more practical nurses working in hospitals (per capita) than Ontario.
“With a growing and aging population, hospitals and long-term care homes are seriously understaffed. We believe understaffing is fueling resident and patient assaults on health care staff,” says Hurley. “Working alone with patients and residents who are distressed about waits, and the quality or lack of care, or who are suffering from mental illness or dementia, are what is making the problem of violence so acute. We are asking for legislation that makes assaulting a health care worker a serious criminal offence.”
OCHU the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario represents over 30,000 hospital and long-term care staff. CUPE represents nearly 75,000 health care workers province-wide.
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