NORTH BAY, ON, Sept. 16, 2015 /CNW/ - With the announcement today of at least 140 additional full-time staff cuts and the closure of 30-40 beds, North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) "is being eviscerated and patient care will suffer dramatically," says Michael Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE (OCHU).
The province has frozen hospital funding for the last four years, which has cut their budgets in real terms by over 20 per cent. To deal with the significant provincial underfunding, NBRHC has slashed nearly $50 million over the last 3 years, resulting in cuts to nursing, emergency, cleaning, portering, cataract surgery, psychiatric care and forensic units. For 2015, the hospital received $14 million less in provincial funding than it needed to just to maintain existing services. In 2014 the provincial funding deficit was $18 million. 40 nursing positions were eliminated in 2013 to counter a $14 million deficit.
"No community in Ontario is suffering hospital cuts to the extent that the North Bay community is suffering them," said Hurley. The Liberals, he added, saddled North Bay with an enormously expensive P3 hospital after promising to scrap the deal and they are cutting the hospital's budget by almost 6 per cent a year. "The province must step in immediately with funding to stop the bleeding out of vital patient services".
Shawn Shank the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 139 which represents hundreds of front-line staff at NBRHC, called on North Bay's mayor and the M.P.P. to rally to the defense of their community hospital.
Ontario's hospitals are the leanest in Canada, with the fewest beds and staff to population and the shortest lengths of stay.
Recently released health data shows an increase in patient readmission rates for NBRHC in each year of the provincial funding freeze. "The readmission spikes signals that the hospital is pushing patients out of hospital faster and faster and before they are well. Patients are being sent home and then readmitted, acutely ill and often requiring longer, more costly, hospital stays. Many individuals are paying with their health for a community hospital that isn't funded properly," said Hurley.
OCHU/CUPE represents over 30,000 hospital staff province-wide. "They are extremely concerned about patient care. They've advocated and in many places held community rallies calling for improved provincial funding for hospitals and it is now time to consider taking the protests to a new level," Hurley said.
SOURCE Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)
For further information: Michael Hurley, President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions: 416-884-0770; Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications: 416-559-9300