Ontario fears fate of health-care system
Ontario’s health minister says he is concerned about the sustainability of the province’s health-care system, as both nurses and a business group raise similar worries and doctors deal with internal turmoil.
The concerns come as Ontario draws up its 2017-18 budget — one it has promised to balance for the first time in many years, while still increasing spending in the more than $50-billion health file.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced Tuesday the province will invest between $50 million and $100 million, the government says, in a facility at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre that will offer treatment such as stem cell transplants for blood cancers.
Both took questions on the state of Ontario’s health-care system and both used the opportunity to point a finger at the federal government.
“We … believe we are making the right and important investments in our healthcare system (with) a three-per-cent increase in the health-care budget over the course of the last year,” Hoskins said.
“But at the same time we are concerned about the sustainability of the healthcare system, which is why we’ve been having talks over the course of the past year, 18 months, with the federal government with regards to the federal Canada Health Transfer.”
The federal government has offered to increase the transfer payments by 3.5 per cent annually, with additional money for home care and mental health, but many provinces including Ontario say that’s not enough and have asked for a 5.2 per cent increase.
Wynne said Ontario will continue to increase health-care funding every year, but more funding is needed.
A recent report from the province’s budget watchdog said that if the government wants to keep growth in its health budget to a target of 1.7 per cent over the next three years, it will need to find further savings.
The government has limited growth in the health sector over the past few years to about two per cent, largely through cutting payments to doctors and freezing hospitals’ base operating funding — though in the fall economic update it added $140 million in new health spending for hospitals.
But the financial accountability office said Ontario is set to be over this fiscal year’s target by $400 million, rising to $900 million next year and $1.5 billion in 2018-19. If the province does receive additional funding from the federal government, the FAO’s conclusions would change, it said.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association called Tuesday for more health-care funding, saying that more than 1,600 registered nurse positions had been cut in a twoyear period. Hoskins said that in the past three or four years more than 2,000 nurses had been hired in hospitals.
An Ontario Chamber of Commerce survey says just 14 per cent of its members believe in the system’s sustainability.