No end to hallway medicine
Hospital workers’ union fears bed, job cuts at PRHC
The city’s hospital could see a substantial loss of beds and staff under Premier Doug Ford’s new government, union officials say.
The Progressive Conservative government has proposed a 4 per cent cut to spending by finding “efficiencies,” $7.6 billion in annual tax cuts and a commitment to a balanced budget.
With that plan, there’ll be no end to “hallway medicine,” according to a report by Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
OCHU is the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). CUPE Local 1943 represents health care workers at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC).
OCHU’s report, Hallway Medicine: It Can Be Fixed, looks at the impact Ford’s promises could have on community hospitals, including PRHC.
Based on OCHU’s number crunching, PRHC could lose between 34 to 51 beds and 75 to 163 jobs.
Michael Hurley, OCHU president, said hospital services are the largest single area of program spending in the Ontario budget. Therefore, it’ll be difficult to exempt hospitals from the cut.
Yet Ontario hospitals, especially PRHC, are already operating with less funding and staff than other provinces in Canada.
At PRHC, the cost for a standardized hospital stay is about $1,700 less than the Canada-wide average, and about $1,100 less than the Ontario average.
“We underspend the rest of the provinces by $400 per person, which is one of the reason that we have the problems that we do,” Hurley said of PRHC.
One of those problems is operating at 100 per cent capacity most of the time, said CUPE Local 1943 president Laurie Hatton.
“We just can’t sustain that – it’s just not possible to keep going at that level,” Hatton said.
Many citizens might not realize the dire state of health care funding, Hatton said, because they get adequate care at PRHC.
Funding is related to the amount of care you can give, she said, and PRHC could do better.
“In Peterborough, the general consensus is we’re doing the best we can and that’s not right – we should be the best,” she said.
To end hallway medicine, which Ford promised to do during the provincial election, spending must meet the needs of an aging and growing population, Hurley said.
The new spending doesn’t have to be permanent, he pointed out, but is needed for the life of the baby boom generation.
“We’re at a critical juncture in terms of how we approach this problem, do people get cared for dignity or do we sort of stack them up?” he said.
To remedy the hallway medicine and bed crisis, OCHU’s report suggests several options for the Conservative government to take into consideration.
“The prescription is to fund hospitals at the real cost, stop the cuts, open beds, long term care needs an investment, mental health and addiction and step away from restructuring and privatization,” Hurley said.
“Health care is expensive, it needs to be funded appropriately and cutting it, in the long run, only ends up costing more money down the road,” Hatton added.
Laurie Hatton, CUPE Local 1943 president, and Michael Hurley, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president, talk to reporterson Friday.