One year ago, the PC Government made vague promises in regards to ending hallway medicine, increasing system capacity while keeping public sector staff and cutting government spending on services.
So, how have they made on those promises?
According to a study done by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE, the answer is no.
OCHU/CUPE President Michael Hurley visited Sault Ste. Marie on Friday morning as part of his Northern Ontario tour to present ‘Protecting What Matters Most,’ a new report by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.
‘Protecting What Matters Most’ looks at health ministry spending restraint outlined in the 2019 budget while factoring inflation, population and aging growth cost pressures, then projecting how many hospital staff and beds would be cut under the Ford government’s Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, passed in March of this year.
So far, the PC Government’s spending plan needs billions of dollars in extra “unidentifed and unannounced” cuts in order to meet its savings targets. This means axing $5.2 billion to the healthcare system in the next five years to make their budget work by 2023-24 – which is way more than the cuts originally announced.
What does this mean for Sault Ste. Marie?
“As we go out, there are real budget cuts of about three per cent a year to the hospitals, including the Sault Area Hospital,” Hurley said in a media scrum, speaking of the effects this is having/will have locally.
“By the end of the five-year budget cycle, if these cuts go ahead, the Sault will lose about 33 beds and about 270 staff. Unless there’s a public resistance to this, which is what we’re hoping.”
This just so happens to be taking place at the same time that the population is aging and growing, causing the demand for these services to increase.
“The problem of hallway medicine will actually intensify over this period,” he said.
Hurley said that these cuts will also have a ripple effect on both long-term care and in-home care, causing the burden to fall on aging spouses and family members.The government has announced the construction of 33,000 new long-term care beds, but there are currently 34,000 people on the waiting list.
“There isn’t an investment in long-term care,” he said. “And as we look along that timeline, it isn’t only the hospitals that will be cut back, but also long-term care will see a withdrawal of funding, which will impact staffing and resident care levels.
“Also, everyone looks to home care to meet the demand,” he continued. “What the government has been doing (not only this government, but also the previous) for home care is increasingly restricting access by making the requirements to be eligible so difficult and strenuous.”
Hurley said this means the expectation of the home care and long-term care systems to pick up any slack from the hospitals will be non-existent.
“Every area of healthcare will be swamped by the combination of the funding cuts of 15 per cent from the last year, and the aging and growing population.”
Hurley said the Ontario Health Coalition is planning events across Ontario during the fall, winter and spring in order to push back against these government cuts, including town hall meetings, rallies, lobbies, petitions and lawn sign campaigns.
“I think those will all be features of a campaign to draw attention to the withdrawal of huge amounts of money from the healthcare system,” he said.