Overcrowded Ontario hospitals on the ‘brink’ to plead for budget increase

A file photo of hospital beds.
A file photo of hospital beds. OJO Images / Rex Features

Members of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) will make a trip to Queens Park on Thursday in the hopes of securing more funds for what they call “a sector on the brink”

In a seven-page pre-budget submission for 2018, the OHA is looking for a minimum 4.55 per cent in total operational funding for hospitals “to ensure that Ontario’s health-care system remains sustainable.”

It also suggests another one per cent increase for the creation of a patient safety equipment fund which would provide funding for capital investments required for building maintenance, new clinical equipment, and information systems.

READ MORE: Ontario creating 1,200 new hospital beds across province to ease overcrowding

It goes on to show overcrowding issues from the summer in which occupancy exceeded 100 per cent capacity at about half of the province’s hospitals, and in as high as 140 per cent in some of those.

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Recent World Health Organization (WHO) numbers put bed occupancy for the average acute care hospital at about 85 per cent.

And wait times faired no better during the same time period with September having the longest compared to the past seven Septembers with 10 per cent of patients waiting approximately 32 hours for care.

LISTEN: NDP Leader Andrea Horvath talks about the Ontario Hospital Associations pre-budget report for 2018

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) point to an argument for more capital funding with the ministry of finance revealing Ontario’s population grew 1.5 per cent in the past year.

Compared to other provinces, Ontario spends about $389 less per person on hospital care. That equates to about $5.5 billion in annual savings for Queen’s Park.

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READ MORE: Ontario Patient Ombudsman finds hospitals are main source of complaints

NDP leader Andrea Horwath told Global News Radio 640 Toronto that freezing hospital budgets and operating below inflationary increases for 10 years has “shorted” the hospital system.

“I’ve been telling the government: ‘you have to listen to the experts,'” said Horwath. “The doctors have come out saying there has to be more investment, now the OHA has also formally put this in writing. It’s now time for this government to do right.”

During question period at Queen’s Park, Premier Kathleen Wynne referred to recent overcrowding as a “surge of need due to the flu season, ” and that the Liberals have not been complacent, increasing the budget for 2018 by $500 million.

“We are consistently looking for solutions working with organizations like the OHA, working with nurses, working with doctors,” said Wynne, “To suggest that we have been complacent, is simply not accurate.’

Minister of Health and Long Term Care Eric Hoskins said it was important to recognize the quality of health care in the province and the fact that Ontario is near the top of the OECD rank of avoidable deaths from health outcomes.

“We have the lowest rate of potential years of life lost in Canada,” said Hoskins, “We need to be proud of the outcomes that we have achieved collectively as a province and a society.”

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Outside of Queens Park, Hoskins told reporters he had in fact seen the OHA pre-budget and that there would be “deeper” discussions in the near future.