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Formula changes dismantling hospitals: OHC report

Posted: April 17, 2016

(April 17, 2016)

By: Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

COBOURG – A recent report from the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) says community hospitals, like Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, are being dismantled due to funding formula changes that “force specialization and centralization of care into fewer locations with patients forced to travel further for services.”

In the April 13 document, which chronicles hospital cutbacks and closures from 2012 to 2016, it states that “Ontario’s hospitals are now dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, yet bed closures, staff layoffs and service cuts continue.

“This overcrowding leads to poor patient outcomes, increased morbidity and mortality, infectious disease outbreaks, increased risk of medical errors and high patient dissatisfaction.”

Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas, co-chair of the local Northumberland chapter of the OHC and SEIU education co-ordinator, told Northumberland Today that the “report shows that our hospitals have become the scapegoat for our present provincial government’s poor budgeting skills.

“I recognize that there needs to be transformation in health care but that transformation should be for better health care,” she continued. “The stats provided in this report clearly show that our hospitals in smaller communities, such as our own, continue to struggle with little support from our MPP.”

In the hospital-by-hospital chronically of cuts, the OHC reports the current restructuring underway this year at NHH which includes the cutting of 13.7 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in direct patient and support care covering nursing, laboratory, physiotherapy, hospital support, housing keeping, maintenance and clerical workers.

The OHC report states that before that in 2014, the public cafeteria hours were “proposed” to be cut, along with a proposed reduction in ambulatory clinic and operating room hours.

It also noted cuts of 26 beds in 2011, and the closure of diabetes, outpatient physio therapy and occupational therapy although it also states that “as a result of community fightback, many of the cutters were rolled back, not not all were stopped.”

When NHH was asked to comment on the OHC report after it was released Wednesday, spokesperson Jennifer Gillard confirmed that cafeteria hours have been reduced. When asked specifically if reduced global funding reductions are affecting care and services in Ontario hospitals, and to respond to the impact of the cuts of the number of people affected at NHH this year, plus the impact of changes outlined for 2014 and 2011 in the OHC report, Gillard stated in an email the following day on Thursday afternoon that there had not been time to review the report “in full” and that NHH is “unable to provide comment at this time.”

No comment had been provided by Sunday morning.

Meantime, a local rally is being organized for this Saturday, April 23 to support local hospital workers.

Rally organizer Judy Sherwin of Cobourg, who paid for two banners that say “Care not cuts: Put Patients” suggests people don’t seem to know about the restructuring ongoing at NHH.

“The only surgery and cuts we should be seeing at our hospital should be medical, not budgetary,” Mackenzie-Nicholas said. “We don’t want platitudes – we want action. It is not good enough to make cuts and still have a budget that is not balanced. This only tells us that in the near future we will be cut again”

She summed up her reaction this way: “We sacrificed one hospital in our community already with the promise that better services would be provided.

“It is way past time to build on our hospital services, not cut them. Patient care should always come first. What is clear to me after reading the Ontario Health Coalition report is that the provincial government (and federal too- if there is not a new Health accord) have their priorities mixed up.”

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