Hamilton hospitals are on track to take a huge hit in the coming years with the provincial government’s planned cuts to funds and services.
A report from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and its hospital division, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) released Tuesday (Sept. 17), found that if the province moves forward with future funding cuts to health care, in 2023 the cuts will climb to $255 million for Hamilton hospitals.
The Conservative’s April 2019 budget will cut hospital operating costs in real terms by 3 per cent per year on average, the report says.
“Hamilton hospitals will be making $42 million in cuts this year. But with cuts building to 15 per cent across the province by 2023, Hamilton hospitals can expect $153 million in cuts by 2021 and $255 million by 2023.”
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To put this in perspective, the report points out that Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) has cut its budget by $200 million since 2011 and St. Joseph’s Health Care by $94 million.
These future cuts will unfold just as Hamilton is expected to see a steady population increase of over 3 per cent over five years. About 30 per cent of the city’s population – more than 167,000 people – are now over 55 years old. That number is projected to climb to 260,000 (a 56 per cent increase) over the next two decades.
“There is nothing left to trim,” said Dave Murphy, president of CUPE local 7800, which represents 3,500 staff at HHS. “The Conservatives promised to end the problem of hallway medicine. But what I see here is a pathway to increased overcrowding and an intensification of hallway medicine and it only gets worse as we move down the timeline. We are calling on the Conservatives to honour their commitment and to fund hospitals at least at their real operating costs.”
A CUPE released a report in August estimated that Hamilton hospitals will have to cut 76 beds and 602 staff over five years to meet the provincial budget plan.
When population growth and ageing are factored in, “the impact will be felt as a cut of 247 beds and 1,936 staff in the local hospitals today,” Tuesday’s report says.
Ontario has the lowest number of beds to population of any province and “there is a tidal wave of demographics underway, hospitals need an investment and additional capacity, not cuts,” said Michael Hurley, President, OCHU/CUPE. “There is no dignity for patients in hallways where there is no washroom and no ability to have a confidential discussion with a doctor or a nurse or a chaplain or a family member.”