Liberal government announcement of money to help hospitals meet fire standards is completely inadequate - union

TORONTO, Sept. 2, 2015 /CNW/ - "The provincial government trumpets an investment of $125 million in hospital infrastructure, but the truth is that they have been cutting hospital's operating budgets deeply for five years now," said Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. "The only reason that the government must spend $125 million to ensure that our hospitals meet provincial fire-safety standards is that they have been starved for operating dollars which have made maintenance and infrastructure related safety upgrades impossible," Hurley explained.

A recent study by HealthCareCan, a national body representing academic and industry health care associations, suggested that Canadian hospitals carry between $15.4 and $28 billion in deferred maintenance costs. "The costs of dealing with deferred maintenance increase over time," said Hurley. "As infrastructure decays, it is more expensive to fix and the government has been steadily cutting operating expenditures to the hospitals, which makes it much more difficult for hospitals to meet their maintenance obligations. The provincial government can't cut billions from hospital budgets and then call an expenditure that is thousands of times smaller an investment."

The HealthCareCan report suggests that infrastructure upgrades and maintenance are critical to ensuring high quality health care, and to limiting the frequency of hospital acquired infections like MRSA. "The real issue is that crumbling concrete, leaky roofs, and substandard fire-safety systems are symptoms of much deeper problems that wind-up undermining the health of Ontarians – we're not just talking about infrastructure, we're talking about quality of care," Hurley said.

The Liberals dropped the corporate income tax rate to one of the lowest in North America, and economists estimate that the province has lost nearly $20 billion in revenue. This drop in tax revenue triggered austerity in provincial expenditures including a 5-year funding freeze for Ontario hospitals, already the worst funded per capita in Canada. " Ontario's hospitals are the least expensive and most efficient in the country and they are starved of operating revenue. The funding announcement the government needs to make is to restore funding at least equal to hospital operating costs, rather than a 5% annual cut in real terms, which has happened in each of the last 4 years. The announcement this week of budget cuts of $20,000,000 to hospitals in the South East LHIN is an example of the current reality on the ground," said Hurley.

SOURCE Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)

For further information: Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions: 416-884-0770; Eric Newstadt, Researcher, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions: 416-820-4493


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