HAMILTON, ON – St. Joseph Hospital staff today called for an end to contracted-out patient transfer costs, including nearly $300,000 in taxi cab bills, money they said could be used to expand the cost-effective, in-hospital patient transport service that the hospital now intends to eliminate on June 28.
As the provincial government further continues to reduce hospital funding, St. Joseph’s will regrettably opt for more service cuts. The cuts and money spent outsourcing services warrant closer public scrutiny, and the financial information should be made readily available, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 786 said at a media conference.
The outsourcing of patient transport in particular should come under the microscope because the in-hospital service was well-used for decades. In 2012, there were 22,000 calls for patient-related transport to medical and rehab appointments and between hospitals.
Although more transfers could be done by the in-house shuttle, in 2013-2014, the hospital spent nearly $300,000 on taxis, and began contracting out the work of the in-house shuttle drivers, often on a fee-for-service basis. Thousands of calls were removed from the in-house service. Even now, the hospital transport is only allowed to respond to 17,000 calls.
“By cutting taxi costs and the fee-for-service transport outsourcing, the in-house service could be expanded,” said Domenic DiPasquale, CUPE 786 President.
Records show that 73 per cent of taxi chits are missing key documentation. “Hospital executives are directing public funds to cab fares and fees with little oversight to this spending, and virtually no record as to what the ride and fee are for,” said DiPasquale. “Moreover, many tens of thousands of dollars are spent on expensive cars for top hospital executives.
“We are far from convinced that this is a beneficial way to spend precious transport dollars. We could easily provide transportation for many work-related transits. We’re calling on the hospital leadership to rethink its strategy and work with us to develop an extensive all-in service that is based on high quality and fair wages.”
Quality of care for patients should be the hospital’s top goal and “our drivers are experienced and trained to ensure the safety of patients, staff and the public. This is an important consideration, since there are many psychiatric and forensic patients transported,” said DiPasquale.
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