It's OK to close hospital beds

Aside from the predictable (but fun) response from Deb Matthews to yesterday's Ontario Health Coalition report outlining cuts in Ontario hospitals ("It is OK" to close hospital beds, she opined), we did get a snippet or two of information from the government. 

The Star reports the Health Minister's office also made these claims:

  • 70 per cent of hospitals have seen increases  -- 63 hospitals.  This is inaccurate in some way. There are about 159 hospital corporations in Ontario (there's many more hospital facilities).  So if 63 is accurate, that would be 39% of hospital corporations got an increase.  If it is 70%, that would be about 111 hospital corporations. So somebody got the math wrong.
  • The largest decrease that a hospital has received is 1.2 per cent and the largest increase is 2.8 per cent.
  • About 81 per cent of hospitals have seen no more than a 1 per cent swing, up or down. So, if this is true, the large majority of hospitals got either a very small absolute increase or a very small absolute decrease in funding. Still there was no reported comment on the overall change in hospital funding -- since the LHINs were created that has been obscured by the division between LHIN and other forms of hospital funding.
The government's claim that it is increasing overall health care funding ignores the fact that costs are increasing due to increasing population, aging, inflation, and increased utilization.  So, their modest increase in nominal funding means a decrease in real funding -- and, as a result, in health care service.  The Ontario Auditor General cites 6-7% cost pressures for health care, far, far more than actual health care funding. So, for example, even if all the hospitals got a nominal 1% increase, that is a long way off the actual cost pressures they are facing.

Notably, even obedient hospital bosses have, of late, made some concession toward the idea that the cuts they are being forced to impose may mean a reduction in service.  But not the Health Minister.  Not yet, anyway.

By the way, here is the Health Coalition's tart reply on the issue of, alleged, improvements in home and community care offsetting the cuts to hospitals:

“Under the required deficit-elimination plans, hospital beds are being closed down in significant numbers. Hospital services are being cut. Plans for unprecedented privatization of surgeries, diagnostics and therapies are being revealed. Despite the rhetoric of the health minister and our new premier (Kathleen Wynne), these services are not being replaced in non-profit community and home care. They are being cut and privatized.”

Quite right.  

Health Minister Deb Matthews. Photo: London Public Library

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