TORONTO — Ontario’s hospitals are facing “unprecedented” financial pressures because of the pandemic, the head of the association representing them said Friday, asking the government to speed up funding promised to address COVID-19 costs.
Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association, said many hospitals are using lines of credit or funding previously earmarked for capital projects to pay for pandemic-response measures.
Hospital resources are stretched thin, and many facilities remain at or above capacity, Dale said.
“For the hospital sector, we are spending a king’s ransom to fight this pandemic,” Dale said. “The hospital sector is facing unprecedented, truly unprecedented, financial pressures.”
In August, the province set aside billions in new funding to address COVID-19 costs in the health-care system.
Dale said, however, that while the government is aware of the fiscal pressure hospitals are facing, only COVID-19 costs from March and April have been covered so far.
If the additional funding promised by the province doesn’t begin to flow soon, the facilities may eventually not be able make payroll, he said.
“We hope that would never seriously happen in a hospital, but the reality is, at a certain point in time you hit a wall,” he said. “You really lose your ability to pay for your daily operating costs … because you don’t have cash on hand.”
Dale said slowing community spread of the virus is also an important part of relieving the stress on hospital resources and, in turn, cutting costs.
Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office did not immediately provide comment.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner criticized the government for not getting funding into the hands of hospitals faster.
“For a government that prides itself on cutting red tape, it sure manages to tie up COVID-19 funding in layers of government bureaucracy,” he said in a statement.
Ontario reported 896 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and nine new deaths related to the novel coronavirus.
Elliott said 314 of the new cases are in Toronto, 173 are in Peel Region, 115 are in York Region and 92 are in Ottawa.
There are 796 newly resolved cases, and the province says it completed more than 41,000 tests in the previous 24 hours.
Across the province, 314 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 75 people in intensive care and 52 of them on ventilators.
The new numbers come a day after health officials suggested the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing in Ontario, even as they warned the situation could quickly worsen again.
A panel of health officials say their latest modelling shows the province appears to be moving away from the worst-case scenario, and is expected to settle into a range of 800 to 1,200 new daily cases for the next several weeks.
Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford’s office said Friday that members of his constituency staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
It said Ford has not visited the North Toronto constituency office in the past two weeks and he has had no exposure to the ill staff members.
The premier’s office says the constituency office will be closed for the foreseeable future but will continue to offer services virtually.