“In Niagara, we know all too well the consequences of a health system reducing the number of support staff, using inferior cleaning products and rushing patients out of the door. Remember the 2011 C-difficile outbreak in our hospitals. It had far reaching effects. Loved ones died either in the hospital or at home because of the infection they picked up in the hospital.”
A Commentary by Niagara Health Coalition chair Sue Hotte in response to an October 3rd, 2018 announcement by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Health Minister, Christine Elliott
Posted October 4th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – For more than 20 years, Ontario has had an overcrowding and under-staffing crisis in our hospitals. In Niagara, we have seen the closure of the Hotel Dieu, the Niagara on the Lake hospital and the loss of the emergencies in the Fort Erie and Port Colborne hospitals.
This has been compounded by the loss of beds in all hospitals in Niagara so much so that we now have fewer than 825 beds (includes 134 beds at the Shaver) to serve more than 450,000 residents.
In October 2017, the Wynne government announced $100 million ($26 million of which had been announced in the 2017 spring provincial budget) to reopen hospital bed capacity and $ 40 million of new money for home care. This money funded 1,200 hospital beds and an additional set of “transitional beds”. This was a start in addressing the crisis we were facing as it meant that Niagara Health would receive an additional 26 beds
In the spring of 2018, the Liberals committed $187 million to keep open the 1,200 temporary hospital beds opened in the fall of 2017.
Move forward to October 3, 2018, the Deputy Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Christine Elliott announced $90 million to fund 1,100 beds including 640 new beds to deal with the overcrowding issue and to help reduce hallway medicine.
So –the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care budgeted $187 million to keep 1200 beds open has been cut to $ 90 million to fund 1,100 beds. How can you cut the budget by more than half to fund 91% of the beds?
Is the expectation that the health systems will find savings to fund the additional beds they received under the Liberals? There are no more efficiencies to be found in our health systems because of the underfunding they’ve had to deal with over the past two decades. Their annual budget increase rarely matched the rate of inflation and by law they can’t operate on a deficit.
In Niagara, we know all too well the consequences of a health system reducing the number of support staff, using inferior cleaning products and rushing patients out of the door. Remember the 2011 C-difficile outbreak in our hospitals. It had far reaching effects. Loved ones died either in the hospital or at home because of the infection they picked up in the hospital.
Hospitals must be properly staffed and maintained in order to deliver good care. We need major investments, not less, to deal with the crisis our hospitals are facing. It is getting worse. In September 2018, the Premier cut mental health by $ 300 million and Niagara’s safe injection site was put on hold. Since Niagara has the third highest number of opioid deaths in Canada and we need more mental health funding , his actions have definitely put more stress on our health systems.
Where is the $ 90 million going? Is it only going to the selected sites that Christine Elliott mentioned in her speech because she said that the funding would go “to those communities with the greatest need”. So where does this leave all the other hospitals in Ontario and specifically Niagara’s.
Since the Liberals opened 1200 beds, where did the announced new 640 beds come from? Are they a start on the 6000 new long term care beds the Premier promised to deliver in 5 years? Part of that money is also in the Liberal budget. Are they really new beds and where are they going? With the highest percentage of seniors in Ontario and long wait lists – Niagara could certainly use more beds.
So many questions that need to be answered! Maybe that is why Premier Ford and Minister of Health Elliott wanted no members of the public and of advocacy groups to hear them when they made their great announcement in a government building today.
The following statement was released this October 3rd by the Niagara Health Coalition’s umbrella group, the Toronto-based Ontario Health Coalition –
Doug Ford Cuts Hospital Beds And Funding – Then Calls It An Increase!
Toronto, Ontario – Usually a major government announcement is in the media studio at the Legislature or somewhere public where the public can attend and media can ask questions.
Today (October 3rd) , Ontario Health Coalition spokeswoman, Natalie Mehra, was told by security that she wouldn’t even be able to stand in the hallway outside where Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott were making a hospital funding announcement, even though the announcement was made in a government building which should be open to the public, and even though media had requested interviews after the announcement.
In fact, not only was the Health Coalition told they must leave the area by security guards, this government announcement was made as a “photo op”, not even press conference, so that the media was not allowed to ask questions of Premier Ford or Health Minister Elliott.
The reason appears to be that today’s hospital funding announcement is actually a re-announcement and a cut. This is a replay of what happened in the summer when the government cut more than $330 million in mental health funding and tried to make it look like a new funding announcement.
The Ontario Health Coalition has spent the last 12 years campaigning to stop the hospital cuts and get action on Ontario’s hospital overcrowding and undercapacity crisis. Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per capita in Canada and is third from the bottom of the entire OECD. Ontario funds it public hospitals at the lowest rate in Canada.
“The Ford announcement today is a re-announcement of the budget money that was announced by the Wynne government before the election, but worse, it is also a major cut,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “The Liberals committed $187 million to keep open the 1,200 temporary hospital beds that they had opened last fall. Today, it appears that Doug Ford has cut that to $90 million and 1,100 beds or less.”
“Even with those temporary beds included, Ontario still ranks at the bottom of Canada in the number of beds per person,” she added. “Doug Ford promised to end “hallway medicine” but this is the opposite – it is a cut. Mr. Ford must live up to his promise to voters and reopen closed hospital beds and restore services to deal with the crisis of overcrowding in our hospitals.”
The Coalition noted that in October 2017, the Wynne government announced $100 million – $150 million to reopen hospital bed capacity. This money funded 1,200 hospital beds and an additional set of “transitional beds” (lower level of care, lower level of funding beds, all of which were temporary.
In response to pressure, then Health Minister Eric Hoskins said he would seek approval from Treasury Board to extend them. In February 2018, Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced $187 million would be in the 2018 Budget for the next fiscal year (2018-19 — the year we are now in) to continue those 1,200 hospital beds past the election.
Through the summer, the Ford government systematically rolled back many or most of the provisions of the 2018 budget. Today, Ford appears to have decreased the funding to $90 million in his announcement for 1,100 hospital beds for one year.
“What matters most, is that this announcement is nowhere near what is needed to deal with the crisis of overcrowding and under-capacity in Ontario’s hospitals,” concluded Ms. Mehra.
“Every other province in Canada does better in terms of the number of open hospital beds and hospital funding. There is no question that the Ford government can restore beds and services to meet the real needs of our communities.”
~ Protecting Public Medicare for All ~
To find out more about the Ontario Health Coalition and its public advocacy work, click on – www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca
CUTLINE – Security forced all members of the public and health care advocacy groups out of the hallway of a government building that should be open to the public, at the request of the government in an attempt to keep us away from the photo op at which Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott made their announcement today.
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