Critics of Ontario’s plan to fund hospitals and health care in the province sounded off Thursday night at a town hall meeting where many in attendance took direct aim at the provincial government.
Several local stakeholders, many wearing their political colours for all to see, criticized the Dalton McGuinty Liberals for what they believe is shortsightedness when it comes to the plight of small cities like Cornwall and the local health care needs.
The meeting was one of 16 being held across the province in the days and weeks ahead to create awareness and stir public opinion on the hot button issue.
Elaine MacDonald, a city councillor and staunch labour supporter, suggested funding pitfalls have plagued Cornwall’s health care system for years.
“In 2004 when our hospital was amalgamated it was obviously underfunded,” she told those in attendance. “And at no point, except one year when extraordinary funding was presented did we ever meet our budget goals.
“Early in 2010 we received a dramatic increase in funding of $5 million and even in spite of that infusion of money we were still so short we had to cut 18 beds (at the hospital) later that year.”
Both MacDonald and local NDP supporter Brian Lynch suggested the future looks just as bleak.
Lynch said changes to the way the provincial government plans to fund health care in the province could translate into more cuts for the Cornwall hospital.
Lynch said the new hospital funding formula presented by the governing Liberals suggests a facility could have its provincial allotment based on the number of patients it services year over year.
He said that’s fine for big centres that have seen populations increase, but he is concerned about small cities like Cornwall, whose population is shrinking.
“Many hospitals are concerned they might be in deficits again,” he said, adding more patients in the future may have to face the reality that hospitals are cutting services, closing beds and forcing users to drive greater distances to get looked after.
But he suggested a small ray of hope, given the desire from many to speak out at town hall meetings like Thursday night’s.
“Of course, we’re in a minority government situation,” Lynch said. “The government will be forced to listen to people more…or we could find ourselves in another election.”