Toronto – Following the release of Doug Fords “platform” the Ontario Health Coalition has tried to analyze how Mr. Ford’s plan will impact health care funding. Over the next four years, with four days until the provincial election we still have no firm commitment on the level of hospital funding, nor any clear response to our priority “asks” to rebuild hospital capacity by reopening closed beds, wards and operating rooms We do however have considerable information about Mr. Ford’s planned cuts to provincial revenue and can assess their potential impact on health care for Ontarians.
Multiple economists have crunched the numbers and by every tally the planned cuts amount to tens of billions of dollars. The clearest analysis of Mr. Ford’s proposed cuts to the province’s revenues – that is the money available for funding our public services and programs – comes from Mike Moffatt, an economist at Western University. This analysis shows that, using Mr. Ford’s own concrete figures, $22 billion in cuts to provincial revenues is planned over three years.
To put this number in context, economist Hugh Mackenzie tracked the cuts during the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves era. In the first four years of the Harris government, the cumulative loss to provincial revenues used to fund public services was approx. $13 billion. The first term cuts planned by Mr. Ford are actually more than Mike Harris’.
What does this mean for health care? Mr. Ford has not said where he will find the money. But we can see what happened under Mike Harris/Ernie Eves to get a sense of what it takes to eliminate billions from the budget:
· Between 1993 when they were elected and 2003 when the Harris/Eves government was defeated, a total of more than 11,400 hospital beds was cut. More than one of every three of Ontario’s acute care and chronic care hospital beds were closed.
· Between 1996 and 2000, 39 hospitals were ordered closed. Six psychiatric hospitals were also closed. Forty-four other hospitals were amalgamated, and Harris’ restructuring commission also proposed that 100 more hospitals be combined in 18 networks or clusters.
· Tens of thousands of nurses, health professionals, patient support service and care workers were laid off or cut through attrition.
· Medical errors increased dramatically as the workforce was slashed.
· New drug user fees were imposed on seniors.
·New user fees for patients waiting in a hospital bed for a nursing home bed were imposed, forcing patients to pay a daily charge (which currently amounts to $1,819.53 per month).
· An array of health care services were privatized.
The economist for the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions has totalled the impact of Mr. Ford’s plan on hospital budgets and has concluded that it would result in a cut of more than 20,250 more hospital nurses, health professionals and support staff in three years. This is equal to more than 3-million hours per year of patient care and services.
There are lots of needs in Ontario’s health care system but there are two areas of crises for which we have asked all political parties to make a clear commitment. We can now compare how they stack up:
Doug Ford, PC Party – no commitment on hospital funding, no commitment on reopening any number of beds, operating rooms, or general proposal to “end hallway medicine”. A plan to open 30,000 long-term care beds with 15.000 in first five years. No commitment to improve care levels in long-term care.
Andrea Horwath, NDP – the NDP has agreed to meet our ‘asks’ for 5.3% funding increase for public hospital in each year for the next four years and to reopen beds and make a capacity plan to rebuild public hospital capacity to address long wait times. They plan to reopen 2,000 hospital beds as a start. They plan to open 40,000 long-term beds, 15,000 of which in the first five year. The NDP has agreed to meet our ‘asks’ for a minimum hands-on 4-hour care standard in long-term care homes, to improve levels of care.
Kathleen Wynne, Liberal party – this year, for the election year a one year bump-up of hospital funding by 4.6 per cent slightly short of our asks (5.3 per cent) but a plan to drop hospital funding after election to a 3.2 per cent increase, less than needed to meet population growth and aging. No commitment to re-open hospital beds or restore capacity. A plan to open 30,000 long-term care beds over 10 years with 5,000 in the first five years. A commitment to bring in a four-hour minimum care standard in long-term care. Not clear if this will apply to hands-on care or if it would be watered down by including management and other staffing classifications.
The Ontario Health Coalition is non-partisan and we do not tell people how to vote. Our mandate is to protect and improve public health care services for Ontarians and to foster democratic discussion about policy decisions that impact our health care as such the Coalition is making a last ditch effort to ask Mr. Ford to commit to significant funding reinvestment in our public hospitals, no privatization of health care and improvement of care levels in long term care home and hands-on care levels in long term care homes.