TORONTO, Dec. 2 /CNW/ - The Ontario Health Coalition released a report
detailing hospital cuts and restructuring plans now underway across Ontario.
"We are seeing the deepest and most widespread hospital cuts in more than
a decade," noted Natalie Mehra, coalition director. "The province has set
funding levels for hospitals that are less than the rate of inflation for this
fiscal year, dropping further next year. Hospitals cannot maintain existing
programs and services at current levels of funding. The cuts we are seeing are
disorganized, undemocratic and causing huge public backlash."
"Most communities have spent the last 50 - 100 years to build their local
hospitals and make services locally accessible," added Helen Havlik, retired
nursing director from the Petrolia hospital and a coalition member. "The
government is going in the opposite direction, moving services out of local
communities. For small and rural hospitals, once you move out the services
that are being proposed in some communities, you no longer have a hospital at
"The current government plan for hospital cuts and restructuring is
saddled with similar flaws to the last round of restructuring that went over
budget by billions of dollars while reducing services and compromising
people's health," Mehra warned.Among the major findings of the report:
- Province-wide at least 50% of hospitals (75 hospitals) are, or have
been in deficit this year and almost 70% (104 hospitals) are projected
to be in deficit next year. Hospitals are forbidden to run deficits
and must submit plans to eliminate them by the end of next fiscal
- Provincial funding for hospitals' global budgets is less than the rate
of inflation for this year and next. It has been set at 2.4% for
2008/09 and 2.1% for 2009/10. At these rates, hospitals are unable to
maintain existing programs and services. The government has provided a
multi-step program to increase fees and cut services across the
- Cuts now proposed across Ontario include closures of Emergency
Departments; closure of local birthing service; cuts to hospital beds
and departments; essential closure of small and rural hospitals;
privatization of physiotherapy, chiropody and support services; lay
offs and attrition to reduce the size of the hospital workforce;
increased fees for patients and their visitors, and other measures.
- Emergency Departments are being restructured, closed, or reviewed in
Hamilton, Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Leamington, Wallaceburg and
- The funding squeeze is forcing hospitals to centralize core hospital
services across large geographic regions, moving them out of local
community hospitals. Patients will have to travel from one hospital to
another across their regions to access services. The provincial
government has not made clear how far patients will be required to
travel for hospital care.
- There are no clear plans and funding to offset increased municipal
costs for ambulance, paramedic, fire and police services that will be
required if the local Emergency Departments are closed or converted
into clinics. Ambulance offload delays are a major problem in many
larger hospitals already. There are concerns that the larger hospitals
cannot take the influx of patients that would result from the movement
of services out of local hospitals.
- Planning for infrastructure is misaligned with service planning. In
Ajax - Pickering, a brand new mental health suite of 9 beds was just
completed in time for all the mental health beds to be moved out of
town to Scarborough. In Port Colborne, the government announced
funding to expand and renovate the Emergency Department less than one
year ago and now the Niagara Health System plans to close it down.
- Hospital deficits are worsened by staffing shortages and inadequate
long term care (at home and in facilities) which are provincial
- Hospitals have reportedly been asked to sign "communication
protocols" with the government-appointed LHINs, dictating what
information can be released to the public and when.
- There has been major public outcry. Six thousand people have protested
in Fort Erie and Port Colborne. Municipal Councils are passing motions
for democratically-elected hospital boards, dissolution of amalgamated
hospitals and provincial funding support to offset cuts. Editorials in
community newspapers across the province have decried the lack of
clear planning and cuts to services. Tens of thousands have signed
petitions to save local hospital services.
- Ontario's hospitals have already been restructured for more than 15
years. Current underfunding is forcing deep cuts to patient services.
For further information: Ontario Health Coalition, (416) 441-2502 or
(416) 230-6402 (cell)