ER wait times at Brampton Civic unlikely to improve despite promises
Posted: May 4, 2017
(May 2, 2017)
By: Radhika Panjwani, Brampton Guardian
The Ontario government’s much publicized announcement of approximately $518 million in funding to hospitals including Brampton Civic Hospital (BCH) to alleviate the patient gridlock in the emergency department, may have just been eyewash designed to squelch the outcry about the inhumane conditions experienced by patients, say some observers.
The money, announced in the provincial budget last week, will translate into a boost of two to three per cent. This, critics argue, will barely cover the cost of inflation, let alone help ease the stress on the emergency department at BCH.
“Our hospitals have cut beds and staff over the years due to chronic underfunding by the provincial government,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of Ontario Health Coalition (OHC). “Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per person of anywhere in the country. If you compare us to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, we’re third from the bottom. The money promised in the budget will not solve the problems of overcrowding faced by hospitals.”
Mehra noted the hospitals need a 5 per cent increase in funding to maintain status quo as the population grows and ages. The budget falls woefully short of that.
Chris Bejnar, co-chair of Citizens for a Better Brampton (CFBB), an organization whose mandate, among others, is to improve public health care, said Queen’s Park had yet again short-changed Brampton residents and ignored the dire need for more hospital beds.
Ontario has an average of 2.3 beds per 1,000 persons, and Brampton — with a population of some 600,000 — has less than 1 hospital bed per capita, Bejnar pointed out.
“We’re the 9th largest city in Canada and have one emergency room,” he said. “We will continue having a crisis in our emergency room for the foreseeable future because it appears this government is not prepared to do anything about it.”
Brampton taxpayers paid $60 million towards the new Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness (Peel Memorial) because they were promised substantial improvements in the health-care system. Instead the truth of the matter is that there are patients lying in hallways of BCH for five days waiting for a bed to become available, he said.
“Funny, I have done research all across Canada, and no one else is running to build an ‘integrated centre for health and wellness,’” Bejnar said. “They (William Osler Health Centre) are touting that there may be some inpatient beds in phase 2 of Peel Memorial. Even if they start planning phase 2 tomorrow it will take 10 years to build and open. Can you imagine how the situation is going to be by then?”
Osler, he said, has planned a massive expansion of the Etobicoke General hospital slated to open next year. The $250-million addition will include an ER, ICU and other improvements.
“The City of Toronto taxpayers didn’t have a levy on their tax bill, then why should Brampton have to pay?” he asked. “It’s unacceptable. Since when does health care become a municipal responsibility?”
The exorbitant cost of the privatized P3 financing scheme, introduced in Brampton with Osler-managed BCH a decade ago, was a bad decision, Mehra said.
“Essentially, Brampton paid for three hospitals to get one in the end,” Mehra said.
The Ontario Health Coalition’s executive director said hospital chief executives have been strangely passive about the almost decade-long cuts to their budget and have chosen not to out Queen’s Park.
Osler declined to talk to The Guardian about the specifics of the provincial budget and instead issued a statement.
“Osler welcomes the health care investments announced in the 2017 Ontario Budget, particularly in the areas of access to care and shortening of wait times,” Osler said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our partners in government and at the Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to determine the full implications for the hospital and to continue to provide the most-needed services to our community close to home.”