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Payback for doing the dirty work? Or popular success? LHIN gives Niagara hospital $49 million.

Kudos to Maria Babbage at the Canadian Press for today's story on hospital deficits. Nobody else is digging up the facts on hospital funding like she is.  Nevertheless, the bottom line is hardly surprising:

For the second year in a row, more than a third of Ontario hospitals are bleeding red ink, amounting to a $107-million shortfall. Sixty-one of the province's 159 public hospitals, or 38 per cent, reported a deficit in the last fiscal year that ended March 31...The financial picture of Ontario hospitals is largely unchanged from the previous year, when 61 hospitals reported shortfalls amounting to $154-million...There is concern that while the number of cash-strapped hospitals remained steady, it may be a different story in 2011 due to shrinking provincial funds.

But buried at the end of the story is a surprising fact: The Niagara Health System, which (in)famously played ball with the Ontario government by cutting services and Emergency Rooms, got a WHOPPING $49 million in provincial cash injections from the (Liberal government appointed) Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).

That's a heck of a lot of cash.

Especially when you recall that total global funding this year is only supposed to go up 1.5% or about $225 million for all 159 hospitals.

The Niagara communities were outraged by the Liberal government  cuts (and the antics of the NHS) and pushed back hard, probably harder than anywhere else in the province. 

Now, should I be pleased that the community got something for their hard work, or disgusted by what might be a payback to the hospital bosses for a doing the government's dirty work?  

As always, I'm open to  your opinion, dear readers. 

But I do note that this year, just like last year, most of the new funding to hospitals will go out through 'one time funding'  rather than global funding.  Total hospital funding is supposed to go up this year by 4.7% according to Babbage (4.9% by other accounts). That means that 'one time funding' will be more than twice the increase in global funding, which is set to increase only 1.5% this year. And most of that 'one time' funding has not yet been declared. 

The communities that push back the hardest will get more, it seems.

By moving to a system that makes most of the new money contingent, the Liberal government probably wants to make the hospitals more beholden and more obedient.  But they are also making the process more political. And that they may regret.

P.S.  -- For the Globe's version of Babbage's story see this.


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