Now the doctors speak out about hospital cuts

Scarborough General Hospital. Photo by  Benson Kua
While physicians and surgeons have not usually been at the forefront of campaigns against cutbacks, more of them have begun to express concerns about hospital cuts in Ontario. Here are three recent examples. with a different emphasis from each.

At a Rotary Club meeting May 3, Dr. Robert Ting, president of the Medical Staff Association at the Scarborough Hospital, noted the issue isn't management, it's a lack of funding, and it's getting worse.

"The politicians, they can criticize the management and everything, but even if they had the best management in the world, they wouldn't be able to keep the hospitals open under this kind of scenario...This is just the tip of the iceberg," Dr Ting warned.   The hospital is facing $19.6 million in cuts and more than 300 doctors have signed a petition decrying the cuts.

In Perth-Smith Falls, the Lanark County Medical Society organized a well attended public meeting about the local hospital cuts.  Following the meeting the president of the Medical Society wrote: 

"The local LHIN lead was full of the predictable empty rhetoric of surgical efficiencies, telehealth, health connect and improved access to home care. Nobody was buying it.
"Yes surgical techniques have reduced hospital length of stay but hospitals are not just for surgery; they also look after the frail elderly with chronic complex illness. Many people in that audience had experienced the dislocation of senior loved ones to other hospitals because of lack of beds or experienced prolonged waits in the ER for the same reason. Visitng loved ones in a neighbouring hospital is difficult when you don't drive and there is no bus.
"Those in the audience have come to understand that telehealth is a one way ticket to the ER. Many of the four thousand residents in Smiths Falls without a family doctor have realized that Health Connect is largely a PR exercise and many in our community have tried to access home care to find out that it is largely a phantom program with no meaningful support offered.
"To suggest that with an increasingly ageing population, who despite the best wishes of government continue to get ill as they grow older, we will need less hospital capacity is, at best an exercise in wishful thinking and at worst, a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

"The beauty about being in a rural farming community is that everybody recognizes BS when they smell it. This doesn't pass the sniff test."
Health Sciences North, Sudbury. Photo by mysudbury.ca
Finally, Dr. Peter Zalan, president of the Medical Staff Association at Health Sciences North in Sudbury told the hospital's board Tuesday night that provincial austerity measures are increasing wait times for non-emergency procedures and that the city's surgeons are not happy. Many surgeons have told him "they are embarrassed to meet new patients in the office since they cannot offer them timely help."

The Sudbury Star reports that Zalan doesn't disagree hospitals need to be downsized, but called it "curious" the province isn't directing hospitals on what services to cut. "They give no directions on what to downsize...Just, 'suck it up.' "He wants the province to tell hospitals what to get rid of and to "tell the public what not to expect any more."  That leaves the province's 149 hospitals each trying to decide on their own what programs and services to chop. "That's chaos...You want a system."

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