8/8/10

Small hospital problems just keep rolling in -- now Kenora complains about Ontario MOHLTC wait times funding

As it turns out, the new (and much ballyhooed) emergency room wait time funding will not go to any ER with less than 30,000 ER visits per year.   This is just the latest in a series of Liberal government hospital policies that discriminate against smaller towns and cities (remember, for example, the ER closures in Niagara?).

Lake of the Woods Hospital, a reasonably large hospital in Kenora, falls 4,000 short of the 30,000 visit minimum.

But its June wait time figures are 9.1 hours for high acuity and 5.2 hours compared to provincial expectations of eight and four hours, respectively.

Local hospital president Mark Balcaen showed some guts, took this on, and defended his community:

"The public sees ER wait times the same whether they are in a small, rural, isolated community or are in a large metropolitan area....A long ER wait is still a long ER wait no matter the size of the community or hospital. The people of Kenora complain just as much as the people of any other large city when they have to wait unnecessarily long times to be seen in the hospital ER."

Balcaen also scoffs at the Ministry of Health and LTC's assertion that Aging at Home funding is an adequate substitute for emergency department funding:

"In Northwestern Ontario, the vast (overwhelming) majority of Aging at Home funding has gone to Thunder Bay. Just a tiny fraction has gone to all the other communities in NW Ontario. The (ministry) is well aware of this fact since the (Local Health Integration Network) is required to report to the ministry where the money for Aging at Home is going."

Good for Balcaen.  But he may pay a price for his honesty.  The unfortunate truth is we are seeing fewer real hospital leaders and too many yes men, as the government takes step after step to keep the hospital bosses in line. (So far I haven't heard any other CEOs at small or mid-sized hospitals speak up on this issue and defend their communities.) 

Which puts all that much more responsibility on local communities to step in and stand up for local services. 

Especially in smaller towns and cities: they are bearing a large share of the McGuinty government squeeze on hospital services.  (As this preference for ERs in larger hospitals illustrates.) 
 dallan@cupe.ca

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