Health care staff at a provincial rally calling for increased funding for hospitals heard the sad story of a senior who was denied hospital admission and sent back to the nursing home where he resided, only to die on route. “This, and other stories just like it, are the result of the provincial Liberal government’s years of cuts to hospital funding and care. Many frail, sick patients and long-term care residents are not being given the care they deserve. The elderly are disproportionately affected. It’s a horrible legacy for a government to leave,” said Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) president Michael Hurley.
Far from the investment in health care alluded to pre-budget by the Liberals, overall health care funding will decline as a percentage of total program spending by the province in 2017. Total program spending is budgeted to increase 4.9 per cent while health care funding is budgeted to increase just 2.9 per cent. Program spending excluding health care is budgeted to increase from $71.3 billion to $75.7 billion – a 6.2 per cent increase. Health care falls a full 3.2 per cent behind the overall program spending increase of other ministries. Funding cuts have equalled 30 per cent over 8 years while population has grown and aged.
“It’s not true that this government has heard the call for better hospital and long‑term care funding. At this current level of funding hospitals will continue to be overcrowded. There still won’t be enough staff to meet the needs of increasingly sicker patients and long-term care residents will be denied a 4‑hour care standard that would make such a difference in their lives,” said OCHU’s secretary-treasurer Sharon Richer a former Sudbury hospital worker.
Before the April budget, OCHU/CUPE and others including the Ontario Hospital Association called for about 5 per cent funding increase for hospitals. But the budget didn’t deliver what hospitals and long‑term care homes need just to meet inflationary costs, never mind a growing and ageing population, said Hurley. “The province is several hundreds of millions short and we are encouraging both opposition parties to push for that needed funding for hospitals and long‑term care homes in their communities.”
Ontario’s PC party has not made its plans for health funding public. Their focus is on eliminating Ontario’s $390 billion deficit. “Keeping that in mind, we can anticipate that the Tories hospital funding cuts would be much deeper than the Liberals,” said Hurley.
While the NDP would fund marginally more than the Liberals, they would still cut budgets in real terms.
“Our rally is calling for all three parties to come to their senses on hospital funding and to stop the cuts,” said Hurley. Patients are suffering from lack of care. Others are dying alone in long‑term care without a nurse or a personal support worker there with them because there just isn’t enough staff. This is what should be on the conscience of these three political parties and why they must all do better when it comes to health funding,” said Hurley.
The Sudbury rally is the fourth in a series of similar events that have already been held in Kingston, Hamilton and Kenora.