Approval among Kingston residents for provincial Liberals’ changes to hospital care is exceedingly low, a poll released today shows. Polling of 700 Kingston residents conducted earlier this September probed support for provincial government hospital reforms, hospital use and admission. Respondents’ attitudes on hospital cuts, closing a hospital and private out of hospital clinics were also measured.

With the proposed merger of Kingston General Hospital (KGH) and Hotel Dieu Hospital “we and others are concerned ‘merger’ is code for more patient care and bed and program cuts,” says Mike Rodrigues the president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 1974, front line staff at KGH. The poll, Rodrigues adds, shows “there is no appetite for that. Nor is there support for closing a hospital.”

For the last ten years the provincial government has “proudly” cut funding for hospital care. Today Ontario funding for hospitals is among the lowest of the provinces, a policy not supported by over 92 per cent of poll respondents who think the Ontario government should increase funding for Kingston hospitals. 

Data shows that the rest of Canada spends $353.96 (25.3 per cent) more per person on hospitals than Ontario. This results in a $43 million a year funding gap for Kingston hospitals and a $4.8 billion gap province-wide. Consequently, Ontario’s hospital cuts are the deepest in the country, yet over 86 per cent of poll respondents say they do not support cutting care and beds at Kingston hospitals. Over 92 per cent responded that they do not support the closure of one of Kingston’s hospitals.

“The Ontario Liberals vision is to continue to downsize the role of hospitals so that they provide care for only the sickest of the sick. But nearly 79 per cent responded that they do not share that vision. It’s time for the Ontario PC and NDP parties to tell the public what their plan is for hospital beds, services and funding,” says Michael Hurley president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU). Despite claims by the provincial Liberals to the contrary, says Hurley, “services that are being eliminated at local public hospitals, are not replaced with care at home. It’s very sad for elderly patients with multiple chronic conditions because for them there is a huge home care gap.”

Less than 30 per cent of residents polled say they think moving care out of hospitals into independent clinics is good for Kingston patients. Transferring hospital surgeries and procedures to private clinics “which have considerably less patient safety oversight than public hospitals, is one of the Liberals most controversial patient care changes here in Kingston,” says Hurley.

Over 80 per cent of respondents say that they or one of their family members accessed care (including emergency care) at a Kingston hospital in the last five years. Nearly 66 per cent say they or a family member have been admitted to hospital. Nearly 93 per cent think Kingston’s hospitals are important to them and their families.