This health-care cri­sis is grow­ing


The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Howard El­liott

Hos­pi­tals — run­ning over bud­get, op­er­at­ing beds they don’t have fund­ing for. Emer­gency rooms — pa­tients stacked up in hall­ways. Acute care beds — too many blocked, oc­cu­pied by peo­ple wait­ing to leave hos­pi­tal but with no place to go. Am­bu­lances — stretched to the limit, of­ten not avail­able at all.

It’s an old story. One we would rather not ar­gue about again. But here’s the prob­lem. Things are not get­ting bet­ter, they’re get­ting worse. And so this old story ap­pears here yet again in hopes it will take on a new sense of ur­gency.

Hamil­ton Health Sciences needs to cut $20 mil­lion from its bud­get, St. Joseph’s Health­care $7 mil­lion. In both cases, staffing will be af­fected, stretch­ing al­ready thin hu­man re­sources even thin­ner. Ex­ec­u­tive staff are be­ing cut as well as front line. In the case of HHS, three se­nior ex­ec­u­tives are leav­ing. And that’s at a hos­pi­tal sys­tem that al­ready spends be­low the pro­vin­cial av­er­age on ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian In­sti­tute for Health In­for­ma­tion.

HHS spends 4.9 per cent on ad­min­is­tra­tion, higher than the na­tional av­er­age of 4.3 per cent but well be­low the pro­vin­cial av­er­age of 5.6 per cent. Keep that in mind next time some­one de­clares hos­pi­tals would be fine if only they cut se­nior man­age­ment costs.

Hos­pi­tals have seen pro­vin­cial fund­ing cut re­peat­edly. The prov­ince pro­vided some re­lief this year with a two per cent in­crease. That doesn’t cover in­fla­tion.

That’s why it’s so frus­trat­ing when Health Min­is­ter Eric Hoskins says he doesn’t ex­pect fund­ing to im­pact pa­tient care. What world do Hoskins and other politi­cians live in? It’s al­ready af­fect­ing pa­tient care.

In On­tario, you’re not sup­posed to spend 48 hours on a bed in a hall­way await­ing ad­mis­sion. You shouldn’t wait dou­ble-digit hours in the ER. You shouldn’t be told there’s no acute care bed for a sick rel­a­tive. You shouldn’t ex­pect years-long wait­ing lists for ag­ing rel­a­tives wait­ing for long-term care. All th­ese are hap­pen­ing and get­ting more com­mon. It’s not that the gov­ern­ment is do­ing noth­ing. A pilot pro­gram op­er­ated by the lo­cal LHIN, which gives se­niors tem­po­rary stays in re­tire­ment homes while they await long-term care, is be­ing tested provincewide. The “bun­dled care” model, which has been shown to re­duce hos­pi­tal stays and im­prove out­comes, and was de­vel­oped by St. Joseph’s Health­care, is sup­posed to re­form and im­prove the sys­tem. There are other ex­am­ples of in­no­va­tion.

But it is fair to say the prov­ince must do more. Much more. More fund­ing while the sys­tem is be­ing re­formed. More long-term care. Be­fore the next elec­tion, the Wynne gov­ern­ment must make a much big­ger dent in this cri­sis. The costs in terms of pa­tient care and suf­fer­ing are too high to carry on this way.

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