Res­i­dents urged to join cam­paign against hos­pi­tal cuts

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

Hamil­ton res­i­dents are be­ing urged to join a public cam­paign against hos­pi­tal fund­ing cuts be­fore their loved ones are kicked out of hos­pi­tal too soon, have to wait days in the ER to get a bed, face crit­i­cal de­lays in surg­eries and treat­ments, or can’t get an am­bu­lance be­cause they are all tied up.

The lo­cal hos­pi­tal sys­tem is al­ready in cri­sis ac­cord­ing to the On­tario Health Coali­tion and two hos­pi­tal unions, and will only get worse without ad­e­quate fund­ing.

The Coali­tion, The On­tario Coun­cil of Hos­pi­tal Unions and Cana­dian Union of Public Em­ploy­ees are host­ing a meet­ing in Septem­ber to mount a cam­paign that in­cludes ral­lies and days of ac­tion at the On­tario Leg­is­la­ture.

“We can’t stand by,” said Coali­tion ex­ec­u­tive-di­rec­tor Natalie Mehra at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day. “The hos­pi­tals con­tinue to op­er­ate at a dangerous ca­pac­ity and are di­vorced from the pop­u­la­tion’s need for care. We have no choice but to get or­ga­nized to push the gov­ern­ment to stop the cuts.”

The Coali­tion and unions warn the new­est cuts amount to $27 mil­lion to Hamil­ton’s hos­pi­tals if not stopped — $20 mil­lion to HHS and $7 mil­lion to St. Joseph’s Health­care.

“$27 mil­lion is a whop­ping cut,” said Mehra. “It means a great deal in terms of ser­vice cuts.”

Worse is the tally of cuts in the past five years alone — amount­ing to $115 mil­lion to Hamil­ton Health Sciences and $70.5 mil­lion to St. Joe’s, she added. “It to­tals more than $185 mil­lion, the en­tire bud­get of a medium-sized hos­pi­tal — which means we’re es­sen­tially cut­ting one hos­pi­tal.”

There have been cuts of al­most $300 mil­lion in the past 10 years and On­tario’s hos­pi­tals are the low­est funded in Canada, she said.

Hamil­ton’s hos­pi­tals are run­ning at ex­tremely dangerous lev­els, with 110 per cent oc­cu­pancy and “have passed the tip­ping point.”

Hamil­ton Health Coali­tion cochair Rolf Ger­sten­berger said he was “quite outraged” when the province an­nounced the cuts and then said it won’t af­fect pa­tient care. “My first re­ac­tion was they must take us for id­iots.”

Health Min­is­ter Dr. Eric Hoskins re­sponded in an email that the gov­ern­ment “re­mains com­mit­ted” to trans­form­ing the sys­tem and en­sur­ing pa­tients re­ceive high qual­ity ser­vices. This year’s bud­get gives HHS $17 mil­lion and St. Joe’s $9 mil­lion more than last year, he added.

Dave Mur­phy, pres­i­dent of CUPE Lo­cal 7800 rep­re­sent­ing 4,000 HHS staff, said HHS has been cut­ting jobs since 2009, so the com­ing short­fall “tells me they will now cut clin­i­cal ser­vices.”

Mur­phy warned the cur­rent over­crowd­ing means pa­tients are more sus­cep­ti­ble to hos­pi­tal borne dis­eases, are kicked out too early and need to be read­mit­ted, and there is more risk of med­i­cal er­rors.

Mehra doesn’t ac­cept that too many beds are taken up by those wait­ing for long-term care. “The is­sue is pa­tients are too com­plex for long-term care ... It’s in­hu­mane to force peo­ple into places that can’t take care of them.”

She adds, “It’s not too late to stop the $27 mil­lion cut” since there is an elec­tion next year in On­tario. “We need to mo­bi­lize this fall to stop it.”

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Natalie Mehra, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the On­tario Health coali­tion, speaks at a Tues­day press con­fer­ence on changes to hos­pi­tals and bud­get cuts.

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