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When it comes to hospitals it’s ‘Hacksaw Kathleen’: Ontario Health Coalition

Posted: May 28, 2016

Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government are hacking and slashing hospital budgets in a way that’s more chaotic than Mike Harris ever was, says a coalition fighting to save hospital beds.

“Chainsaw Mike,” as Harris was dubbed, was “more honest and more transparent,” than Wynne, said Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition.

If Harris was “Mike the Knife,” then Wynne is Hacksaw Kathleen — an out-of-control juggernaut clearcutting the hospital system.

“At this point, there’s no tracking of the health cuts by the health ministry,” Mehra told a Toronto Sun editorial board last week.

Worse, Mehra says there’s no planning behind the cuts and no attempt to restructure hospitals along population lines.

“The difference between this and the last two sets of hospital restructuring, both under the (Bob) Rae government and the Harris government, is that there’s no actual plan today,” she said. “Planning for hospital services is totally divorced from population need.”

And Harris was, “by far,” more transparent than Wynne. His government brought in a hospital restructuring commission that was open and had a plan that was publicly debated, said Mehra. They held town hall meetings and decisions could be appealed.

“We didn’t agree with the methodology, but nonetheless there was an actual plan and it wasn’t totally divorced from need and it accepted the fact that the government actually had to plan healthcare,” Mehra said.

Recent cuts have been haphazard and with no logic to them, she said.

“For the last five years, hospitals just cut what they want.”

Hospital amalgamations that occurred under Harris and Eves were supposed to create administrative savings. Instead it’s turned into a decimation of small and rural hospitals in communities across the province.

“No planning body has ever said these hospitals should be closed down and that entire towns should lose their hospitals, but that’s exactly what’s happening,” she said.

Mehra says the Liberal government politicized local planning by replacing local ministry planners, who were often sympathetic to the concerns of communities, with Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) — political appointees under the control of cabinet.

“They’re supposed to have accountability agreements that set quality targets and performance targets as well as financial targets,” she said. Despite being in operation since 2006, they still don’t set targets.

Home care is in disarray and no one ensures standards are met.

The NDP did a bed study in 1994. The Harris government had the Hospital Restructuring Commission in 1995. Since then, there has not been any capacity planning.

Without a capacity study, it’s impossible to put together a plan. Mehra says this is the ninth consecutive year in which the global budget for hospitals has been cut in real dollars.

Her group wants the government to end the cuts which she says puts this province at the lowest funding level in the country.

A Health ministry spokesman responded to their claims, saying the government has invested an extra $1 billion in healthcare this year – including $345 million more for hospitals.

“While we continue to invest in hospitals, we must recognize that we’re moving towards a system where more services are delivered at home and in the community,” said the spokesman. “By re-evaluating the way we have traditionally provided care, we’ve been able to reduce costs while improving patient outcomes.

“Hospitals and community providers are now funded based on how many patients they look after, the services they deliver, and the specific needs of the population they serve. As a result, the system encourages hospitals to become more efficient and rewards better outcomes.”

And on home care?

“Health care is not just about hospitals – it’s about the front-line staff that provide care,” the spokesman said.


A sample of the devastating hospital cuts:

Hamilton Health Sciences Centre:

– 100 full-time jobs to be cut to address $30 million shortfall.

– Closure of entire hospital site proposed within next 10 years.

Welland County General Hospital:

– Closure of entire hospital threatened.

St. Catharines Hospital:

– Closure of operating rooms for six weeks to address budget deficit.

Greater Niagara General Hospital:

– Plan approved to close hospital.

London Health Sciences Centre:

– 500 surgeries – 1 in 20 – delayed at University and Victoria hospitals from January to March.

– $32 million in cuts planned.

North Bay:

– 354 positions cut;

– dozens of beds eliminated between 2013-2016.

– $5 million cut from budget. Closure of Mental Health Rehabilitation Unit announced.

– 60 beds closed.

– 8 surgical beds and 8 medical beds to be cut.

– 158 full-time equivalent positions cut.

The Ottawa Hospital:

– $26 million in cuts including 35 full-time positions to be eliminated in first round of cuts.


– Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – 20% reduction in funding for Toronto Drug Treatment Court Services.

– Humber River Regional Hospital – Keele and Church sites closed. Finch site turned into an “urgent care centre”.

Source: Ontario Hospital Coalition

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