More eco­nom­i­cal to keep sleep lab open: Bis­son

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - NEWS - RON GRECH

There may be a re­prieve for the sleep lab at Tim­mins and Dis­trict Hospi­tal.

MPP Gilles Bis­son (NDP – Tim­mins-James Bay), speak­ing to Tim­mins me­dia Thurs­day morn­ing said the On­tario gov­ern­ment is look­ing into ways that would keep the lab open.

Bis­son has told Min­is­ter of Health Eric Hoskins it would make more eco­nomic sense for the prov­ince to find a so­lu­tion to keep the sleep lab open.

As re­ported by The Daily Press ear­lier this week, TADH has re­quested au­tho­riza­tion from the North East Lo­cal Health In­te­gra­tion Net­work to shut down the sleep lab as a cost­cut­ting mea­sure.

Bis­son said Tim­mins hospi­tal is look­ing at clos­ing the sleep lab as way to save $160,000 a year. The fall­out would see Tim­mins and area res­i­dents trav­el­ling out­side of their home com­mu­nity for this ser­vice, the MPP noted.

“I’ve gone to the Min­istry of Health and said. ‘Lis­ten, we’re go­ing to spend over a mil­lion dol­lars in North­ern Travel Grants,’” Bis­son told re­porters. “So we’re go­ing to spend an ex­tra mil­lion dol­lars in travel grants to send peo­ple to Sud­bury to a sleep lab. We’re go­ing to put them on North­ern high­ways in the mid­dle of win­ter. The next day, af­ter they haven’t slept too well — be­cause if you go to a sleep lab, you don’t sleep too well hav­ing probes and all that on you — they’re go­ing to have to drive to their home com­mu­nity. So we are putting peo­ple at risk and we’re spend­ing over a mil­lion dol­lars in trans­porta­tion, North­ern Travel Grants.

“I’ve gone to the min­is­ter ... and said, ‘Lis­ten, let’s help you save’” $840,000. “Trans­fer the money nec­es­sary through the OHIP bud­get to be able to off­set the cost of the sleep lab so it’s rev­enue neu­tral for the hospi­tal. And let’s not spend the” $840,000 “on North­ern Travel Grants and al­low peo­ple to keep the ser­vice here in Tim­mins.”

Bis­son made his case to Health Min­is­ter Hoskins and Deputy Min­is­ter of Health and Long-Term Care Bob Bell dur­ing a com­mit­tee meet­ing in the On­tario Leg­is­la­ture last week.

Bis­son said, “It would ap­pear the min­is­ter is amend­able to that.”

The Hansard tran­script from that meet­ing sug­gests the gov­ern­ment is ac­tively in­volved in the mat­ter and seek­ing a so­lu­tion.

Bell is quoted in the tran­script telling Bis­son, “We’re ac­tu­ally cur­rently look­ing into why the hospi­tal has de­cided to think about dis­con­tin­u­ing the ser­vice.”

Bis­son told re­porters Thurs­day the prob­lem lies in the fact “the sleep lab is funded by OHIP pre­mi­ums and the un­for­tu­nate part is OHIP has not kept pace with costs. So the hospi­tal has to pay $160,000 per year. So a way of sav­ing money is to close the sleep lab so they have asked per­mis­sion to shut it down. That’s where I got in­volved be­cause peo­ple started to call me.”

Bis­son said the hospi­tal is fac­ing the prospect of mak­ing cuts be­cause of bud­getary con­straints.

“Tim­mins and Dis­trict Hospi­tal is a mil­lion dol­lars in debt, even af­ter the 2.7% in­crease they got last year, and they have to bal­ance. They have no choice.

“The hospi­tal has to make some re­ally un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions that they don’t want to make — and I stress this — this is not the hospi­tal that wants to shut this down. They are kind of be­ing forced.”

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