By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
With the Ajax-Pickering hospital set to join the Lakeridge Health family, something is not adding up for the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC).
According to a report recently released by the group, the merger will save approximately $300,000 every year. While six-figure savings are nothing to sneeze at, the OHC says it doesn’t make sense when the merger is set to cost $18.2 million. In other words, savings won’t be realized under the merger for more than 60 years.
Natalie Mehra, OHC’s executive director, says that the ones paying the cost for the merger will be patients.
“That cost is coming out of the operational budgets of the hospitals. That means that services have to be cut. When you look at the listing of what they’re spending the merger money on, it’s for management teams to manage the merger, it’s for advertising and PR to sell the merger to the community, it’s for layoffs of staff, and mergers of telephones and email systems and so on,” she tells The Oshawa Express.
“It’s all money being taken away from front line patient care to the cost of the merger. That’s just a bad deal, and it doesn’t make any sense.”
In May, the province announced that the Rouge Valley Ajax-Pickering Hospital would be severed from Rouge Valley Health Systems and merged into Lakeridge Health. With four hospitals soon to be under the Lakeridge umbrella, Mehra says that patients are going to have to travel further for specialized care.
“This whole scheme is about rationing services, and merged hospitals in Ontario, the policy is that they are not allowed to have duplication. This means multiple sites can’t have the same services,” she says.
“That means that when Ajax is thrown into the mix, services will have to be rationed across a much wider geography. Right now, everyone has to go to Bowmanville for their cataracts. Will that mean that patients from Ajax will have to travel to Bowmanville for their cataracts?”
Mehra says that, when it comes down to it, merging a hospital that serves hundreds of thousands of people into a network that serves an even larger portion of the population just doesn’t make sense.
“There are 145 hospital corporations across Ontario. There are tons of towns that have 100,000 people, less than 100,000 people, that have their own hospital. There’s nowhere where hospitals serving 200,000 people are merged in with an equal sized town that’s down the highway, no transportation system, no possible way for patients to get from place to place if they’re elderly or can’t drive or recovering from surgery or very ill. It just doesn’t make any sense – there’s no reason why Ajax can’t have its own hospital,” she says.
“The bottom line is that mergers have cost a fortune, and they’ve never yielded the administrative savings that were promised. This merger, there are no predicted savings – it’s going to take 62 years to pay off, and that money should be spent on desperately needed patient care and services and not more planning and consultants and management teams.”