This health-care crisis is growing
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
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.