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Time to fix health-care crisis, coalition says

Posted: May 9, 2018

(May 9, 2018)

By: Tyler Kula, Sarnia Observer

The head of the Ontario Health Coalition is pushing for all political parties to reinvest in hospitals and boost the number of nursing home beds in Ontario to fend off what she calls a crisis in health care.

“What we’re saying is we have to turn the corner on hospital cuts,” said coalition executive director Natalie Mehra, stopping in Sarnia Tuesday as part of a provincial awareness tour.

“This is not a time when we should be talking about efficiencies, or lean, or cutting or restructuring hospitals,” she said.

After 40 years of mostly cuts from Tory, Liberal and New Democrat governments, Ontario hospitals are the lowest-funded per capita in Canada, and receive the least amount of funding as a percentage of respective provincial gross domestic products, she said.

Ontario’s 2.24 hospital beds per person in 2015-16 were also the lowest of all the provinces, she said. The Canadian institute for Health Information data has the average at 3.28.

The slashing has left hospitals running at or above capacity across the province, Mehra said, leading to instances of hallway medicine, cancelled surgeries, and ambulances being pulled off the road because nurses aren’t available in hospital for patient offload.

“The evidence is the cuts have just gone too far,” Mehra said, calling political will the only obstacle.

“Every other province is funding much more than we are,” she said. “If P.E.I. can do it – a much smaller province with a much smaller economy – of course we can do it.”

Another 30,000 nursing-home beds are also needed to deal with a 34,000-person long-term care home wait list, she said, noting she’s never seen fewer than 20,000 people on that list in 23 years working with the Ontario Health Coalition.

That investment needs to happen soon, not a decade on when demands are projected to increase, she said.

How to do it? Mehra said getting rid of publicprivate partnership hospital building, and scrapping health-tax loopholes could save Ontario taxpayers $1 billion a year each.

Cracking down on top-heavy management could also help generate a few extra million dollars, she said.

“It’s been oversold as a solution, but it will generate some money.”

Upping the province’s corporate tax rate – currently 11.5 per cent – and indexing top-end individual taxes are other measures that could be taken, she said.

“But absolutely having a healthcare system that’s running in crisis is something that’s affecting our standard of living dramatically,” she said. “It’s something that has to be addressed.”

The coalition typically just compares party platforms during elections, she said. “This time the crisis in health care is just beyond what we have seen.”

The provincial election is June 7.