4/3/13

Government promise of 60 hospital beds for Windsor is much less than it seems

The Ontario government has finally taken some steps to respond to the long-standing problem of bed shortages in Windsor, promising 60 new beds.  Quite a turn-around, given the full-on attack on hospital services that characterizes much of government health policy.

There has been a whole stream of hospital back-up problems in Windsor -- the elimination of 120 hospital beds between  1996 and 2010,  a major increase in ambulance off-load delays, an attempt to impose an illegal $600 a day charge on hospital patients,  an officially recognized bed crisis, the failure of a public-private partnership long term care project, and, most recently, the failed attempt to create 18 hospital beds in a for-profit retirement home.

It's not clear what finally got the government to make such a promise.

They have promised 30 inpatient beds and 10 rehabilitation beds for Windsor. 

They have also promised twenty "short stay" beds -- but it is not clear (to me) if these are supposed to replace the 18 "assess and restore" hospital beds that were previously promised for the for-profit retirement home.  Assess and restore hospital beds can help patients recover in hospital after an acute episode enabling them to return home when they are ready (a plus for a government bent on stopping patients from moving into long-term care facilities, I reckon).

New beds don't make up loses
But even this major step is much less than it seems.  The Windsor Star helpfully reports that the addition of 60 beds will bring the hospital to 610 beds in 2013.  What is not reported, however, is that this is 59 fewer beds than the 669 beds the hospital reported in 2010.

Even 610 beds may be an exaggeration -- the hospital currently claims only 523 beds on its web site. Sixty more would leave them at 583, 86 fewer beds than 2010. That's a lot of beds to lose in three years.

Wage freeze
In other Windsor news, the chair of the Regional Hospital board worried the cap on wages for non-union employees would hamper recruitment:  “This has to be monitored to ensure our fiscal responsibility does not interfere with being able to recruit and retain staff in order to continue being an employer of choice."  

The hospital CEO (who rarely seems to miss a chance to speak to the media) helpfully added that a "1% wage increase for all WRH staff would cost $2 million dollars to implement. For senior staff 1% increase is $15,000."   This from the guy who complains relentlessly about the wages paid to his unionized employees and the interest arbitration system that helps set those wages.

Chemotherapy contracted-in
The good news? After the recent discovery that chemotherapy drugs supplied by a private contractor for 290 Windsor Regional patients were watered down, the hospital has brought the work back into their own hospital pharmacy (at least for now). The hospital CEO declined to name the company involved, saying that the company had threatened legal action if they were named publicly. Cancer patients are planning their own lawsuits as well. Seventeen of the Windsor patients affected have died, although it is unknown if this was connected to the chemo drug problems.
Photo: The Detroit River ice thaws -- looking over  to Windsor,  DTWpuck

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