More economical to keep sleep lab open: Bisson
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.”