8/13/12

Home care cuts AND hospital cuts

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is planning to cut 22 hospital beds to deal with the government's funding squeeze. The cuts include seven medical beds, two surgical beds, and three pediatric beds in Chatham, as well as 10 complex continuing care beds at the Sydenham campus in Wallaceburg. The bed cuts are supposed to reduce the hospital's deficit.

The Ontario government has endlessly claimed that improved home care services will offset hospital cuts. "Rebalance" is the Health Minister's word of choice.

Despite this claim,  the organization overseeing home care in the Chatham area (the Erie-St. Clair Community Care Access Centre or "CCAC") is projecting a deficit of $8 to $10 million. The CCAC plans "aggressive and deliberate" actions to live within the budget provided by the government.  The CCAC boss, Betty Kuchta says this "is likely going to mean service adjustments." 

Kuchta told the Windsor Star that they will start assessing cases so high-needs patients are served first while less acute patients might be put on waiting lists.

It remains unclear if the government will step in and provide any significant relief.  We are over four months into the fiscal year and the CCAC has been pleading  for more money for quite some time. Cutting $8 to $10 million would be a big blow to existing services: it represents between 6.8% to 8.5% of the CCAC's budget.  

Chatham-Kent Health Care Alliance currently claims 300 beds, so 22 beds amounts to a 7% reduction.  In the mid-1990s, there was 330 hospital beds in  (what was then called) Kent County.  

As of late last year, most CCACs were in deficit.  It's not clear whether this has improved or (as seems more likely) gotten worse.  The nearby Waterloo-Wellington CCAC was taken over by the province in July, following several years of deficit problems.   

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