Skip to main content

Minister of Health opposes more hospital beds

Sun news article yesterday led with the (correct) observation that "Ontario’s plan to spend billions of tax dollars on hospital construction will not significantly increase the number of beds". Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews countered as follows :

”It’s not about more beds. In many cases that’s not what the need is. It’s for modern up-to-date emergency departments, operating rooms. The rooms themselves, the patient rooms, in the old hospitals, simply do not meet today’s infection control standards, so the new hospitals have far more single rooms which will prevent things like C. difficile infection...We’ve also offset it (i.e. 18,500 hospital bed cuts -- DA) by more than 10,000 long-term care beds and beds in other settings outside of acute care hospitals.  So there are a lot more beds now than there were but they’re not in acute care hospitals and that’s actually a move in the right direction.”
There are a number of problems with these arguments. Most basically, not all hospital beds are acute care beds.  Far from it.  In fact, there is a major need to develop more non-acute care hospital beds.  But more of that later.  

Second, there is a need for more single patient hospital rooms to deal  with superbug infections, so, if that is what the Minister is getting at in her reference to old hospitals not meeting infection control standards, good!  But there is also expert evidence that superbug infections are connected to high hospital bed occupancy.  And here there has long been nothing but silence from the Ministry.  

Third, far from being an adequate response to hospital bed cuts, the increase in long term care beds only offsets the rapid growth in the relevant population.   In fact, the McGuinty government has been moving away from creating new long term care beds  -- in contrast with the policy of the previous  government.   Moreover, ICES reports that in the six years between 2002-/3 and 2008/9 the number of people in Ontario over 85 increased 36.9%.  That one age group accounts for more than half  of the people in LTC facilities in Ontario.   So it is very little surprise that the wait times for long term care beds have sky-rocketed.

Finally, long term care isn't designed to get people back into their homes.  LTC facilities are homes for people who are no longer able to take care of themselves despite any medical intervention.  LTC facilities must expand to take care of  the growing segment of the population that finds themselves in that predicament.  But LTC facilities do not provide curative beds -- and people only rarely return to their homes once they enter them.  

So to the extent the government does actually want to return people to their homes (as they endlessly claim) they need hospitals beds. That is where people get cured -- or at least made well enough so that, with increased home care, they can return to their homes.  

Very few hospital 'ALC' patients are waiting for home care, but many are waiting for rehabilitation or chronic care in the hospital.  When they get that, then, perhaps they will be able to go home.  We need improved hospital capacity and more home care hours so that more people can go home once they are well enough.

Unfortunately, if the government sticks to its funding plan, we are going to get less of both. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Public sector employment in Ontario is far below the rest of Canada

The suggestion that Ontario has a deficit because its public sector is too large does not bear scrutiny. Consider the following. 

Public sector employment has fallen in the last three quarters in Ontario.  Since 2011, public sector employment has been pretty flat, with employment up less than 4 tenths of one percent in the first half of 2015 compared with the first half of 2011.


This contrasts with public sector employment outside of Ontario which has gone up pretty consistently and is now 4.7% higher than it was in the first half of 2011.



Private sector employment has also gone up consistently over that period. In Ontario, it has increased 4.3% since the first half of 2011, while in Canada as a whole it has increased 4.9%.







As a result, public sector employment in Ontario is now shrinking as a percentage of the private sector workforce.  In contrast, in the rest of Canada, it is increasing. Moreover, public sector employment is muchhigher in the rest of Canada than in Ontario.  Indeed as…

The long series of failures of private clinics in Ontario

For many years, OCHU/CUPE has been concerned the Ontario government would transfer public hospital surgeries, procedures and diagnostic tests to private clinics. CUPE began campaigning in earnest against this possibility in the spring of 2007 with a tour of the province by former British Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, who talked about the disastrous British experience with private surgical clinics.

The door opened years ago with the introduction of fee-for-service hospital funding (sometimes called Quality Based Funding). Then in the fall of 2013 the government announced regulatory changes to facilitate this privatization. The government announced Request for Proposals for the summer of 2014 to expand the role of "Independent Health Facilities" (IHFs). 

With mass campaigns to stop the private clinic expansion by the Ontario Health Coalition the process slowed.  

But it seems the provincial Liberal government continues to push the idea.  Following a recent second OCHU tour wi…

Hospital worker sick leave: too much or too little?

Ontario hospital workers are muchless absent due to illness or disability than hospital workers Canada-wide.  In 2014, Ontario hospital workers were absent 10.2 days due to illness or disability, 2.9 days less than the Canada wide average – i.e. 22% less.  In fact, Ontario hospital workers have had consistently fewer sick days for years.

This is also true if absences due to family or personal responsibilities are included.
Statistics Canada data for the last fifteen years for Canada and Ontario are reported in the chart below, showing Ontario hospital workers are consistently off work less.
Assuming, Ontario accounts for about 38% of the Canada-wide hospital workforce, these figures suggest that the days lost due to illness of injury in Canada excluding Ontario are about 13.6 days per year ([13.6 x 0.68] + [10.2 x 0.38] = 13.1).

In other words, hospital workers in the rest of Canada are absent from work due to illness or disability 1/3 more than Ontario hospital workers. 

In fact, Canad…