By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
A hospital network the size of Lakeridge Health should have more funding – millions of dollars worth, in fact.
That is according to a new report issued by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), which says the underfunding seen at Oshawa’s hospital is the same problem being faced by others across the province.
“We are about $353 per person below the average healthcare spending in the other provinces, which translates to about $4.8 billion a year,” Michael Hurley, the president of OCHU, said during a news conference in front of Lakeridge.
“More relevantly, for the Region of Durham, Lakeridge, the provincial government is underspending by about $215 million a year.”
According to the OCHU report, the funding gap between Ontario and the rest of the country has grown substantially in the past decade, going from 4.3 per cent in 2005-2006 to 23.3 per cent today.
Hurley says these drops in funding compared to the rest of the country have led to a number of issues at hospitals across Ontario.
“Ontario has…the fewest number of acute care beds of any province in the country, the fewest staff working those beds and we have the highest rate of hospital readmissions,” he says.
“Lakeridge has a higher rate of readmission than (the average in) Ontario, and Ontario’s average is higher than the rest of the country. And what are readmissions really? Readmissions are situations where people come to hospital, get sent home, ostensibly they’re well but in fact they come back to the emerg here with a much more serious condition, typically requiring a much longer period of hospital stay because we moved them through the system so quickly and, in many cases, haven’t actually taken care of them properly.”
“It means we have the most overcrowded hospitals in Canada, by far,” added Natalie Mehra, the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, in regards to the low number of hospital beds in Ontario.
“It means that every large town hospital, like the hospital in Oshawa, is full to overflowing. It’s running at about 100 per cent capacity at all times. That means the beds are full, that means…the patients are lined on stretchers on hallways waiting for beds, it means that there’s continual pressure on staff to discharge patients ever quicker and ever sicker, and it means that we have much higher readmission rates.”
Hurley says that if a hospital like Lakeridge were funded the way that healthcare centres are in other parts of the country, there would be a lot more healthcare professionals and other staff on site – hundreds more.
“We translate that as being short about 675…registered nurses and registered practical nurses at this hospital than there would be if this were in any other province, and we’re calculating that there’s another 1,300 support staff, cleaners, admitting people, repertory technologists, the whole gambit, we’re short at this hospital,” he says.
Mehra says Lakeridge could face even further monetary crunches in the near future due to the Rouge Valley Ajax and Pickering hospital joining the fold.
Initially announced in April by the province, the west Durham hospital would be joining part of the Lakeridge Health network. The expected cost of this merger is $20 million – and Mehra says the money has to come from somewhere.
“That merger cost has not been funded by the provincial government. In any case, it has to come from somewhere. At this point, the money is going to come out of the clinical budgets of the hospital, it’s going to come out of the hospital’s operational budgets. That means more cuts to services,” she said,
“We’ve seen mergers for more than a decade, and they have not saved administrative costs. In fact, costs have gone up while frontline services have been reduced every step of the way.”