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Liberals announced a $60-million increase for hospital global budgets for upcoming year

Posted: March 28, 2016

(March 28, 2016 )

By: Jeffrey Ougler, Sault Star

SAULT STE. MARIE – Consider it the $60-million question.

Sault Area Hospital is unsure as to how provisions in the recent provincial budget for increased hospital dollars will affect 2016/17 funding assumptions.

“Any recognition is good,” SAH president and CEO Ron Gagnon told the Sault Star this week.

“At this point for us, it’s finding out what the specifics are, so we can act accordingly.”

Last week, the province announced a $60-million increase for hospital global budgets for the upcoming year. This upgrade, along with targeted funding, will mean that some hospitals will see up to a 1% funding increase. Small and rural hospitals will see a modest change and specialty hospitals, such as childrens’ and mental-health facilities, will receive an additional $175 million.

This is the first increase in five years.

In February, the hospital reported that at the end of January, it had an operating deficit of $480,000, an improvement of more than $670,000 from the previous year at that time. Based on “anticipated actions” in the balance of the fiscal year, the year-end forecast continues to be a $1-million surplus, as budgeted.

Gagnon said health-care inflation generally runs from 3% to 6%.

“You can’t make definitive plans to change what you’ve already (decided),” he added.

Health-care provisions in the Ontario budget were not applauded by all.

“While we are pleased to see (the Ontario government has) loosened the stranglehold on community hospitals by providing a minimum increase, it is nowhere near enough to stop the erosion of patient care and services across Ontario,” the Ontario Health Coalition said at the time.

“(The budget) announcement is one small step, but there is still a long way to go to restore the services that have been cut and privatized over the last eight years. Ontario has plummeted to the bottom of Canada in hospital funding.”

At SAH, specifically, departments across the facility have been cut in recent years, including operating rooms, ICU, oncology, surgery, hemodialysis, infection control, patient care co-ordination, nursing and personal support.

In January, health-care funding was front and centre during the provincial government’s pre-budget consultations in Sault Ste. Marie, with many presenters contending a continued freeze to base operating funding would yield a dire diagnoses, particularly in Northern Ontario

SAH branded the four-year funding freeze as a chief factor in its fall decision to hike visitor parking rates. Effective Dec. 30, the gate rate increased to $6 per visit and monthly parking passes are now $66.67. Daily rates were $5 and monthly rates stood at $40. Parking fees also increased for staff and physicians.

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