CUPE: Ford budget could mean 26 fewer beds at CCH

Shawna O'Neill, TC Media
CUPE: Ford budget could mean 26 fewer beds at CCH
Past District Deputy for the Avonmore Lodge of the Freemasons

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) predicts that the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) could see a loss of 20 to 26 beds, and 35 to 77 employees if Premier Doug Ford follows through with his promises.

Ford proposed a $7 billion tax plan, balanced budget commitment and four per cent public service efficiency program.

This would result in 3,712 hospital beds and 16,418 jobs cut across the province to meet the target balanced budget, according to an OCHU report.

“We are not in a position to comment on the OCHU/CUPE report addressed today,” said Jeanette Despatie, CCH President and Chief Executive Officer. “I can confirm that we have not heard anything from LHIN or Ministry officials in this regard.  We are on track to balance our budget again for 2018/19 and we are not planning for any service reductions.”

ON has the lowest cost for a standardized hospital stay of any province. Provincial funding is 14 per cent higher per person in the rest of Canada compared to ON, which amounts to $561.08 higher per person, per year.

The report states that despite the economy increasing by 17 per cent from 2008 to 2017, funding per person in 2017 was still less than what it was in 2008, in ON.

“There is obviously a discriminatory element in the allocation of funding because a community hospital like yours is under the ON average,” said Michael Hurley, OCHU President.

According to the report, the CCH has a lower cost of standardized stay by $225 in comparison to the ON average, and $757 less than the Canadian average.

“You’re a very busy city hospital. But you’re not funded properly. That bears some looking at. You would think that your average cost of state would be brought up to at least the ON average,” said Hurley.

CCH acute care beds had a 110 per cent occupancy during 2017/18, while medical and surgical beds had a 128 per cent occupancy rate that year. In developed countries, bed occupancy rates hover around 75 per cent.

The CCH also had a readmission rate of 9.8 per cent per 100 patients during 2016/17, which is higher than the ON and Canadian average.

“It’s operating at over 100 per cent, so it’s diluting its resources and it’s paying for all of this without being reimbursed. Secondly…it’s not being funded at its real cost,” said Hurley.

The report acknowledges that ON’s median age is increasing and the number of seniors aged 65 and over is projected to almost double by 2041.

OCHU and CUPE research made several recommendations for ending hallway medicine, including funding hospitals at their actual costs, opening acute, complex continuing care and long term-care beds, investing in mental health and addictions, and stepping away from restructuring and privatization.

The Auditor General revealed that mergers and hospital restructuring, adopted by previous PC government Mike Harris, cost the province $3.2 billion dollars.

“We are calling on the government to fund the hospitals at their real costs, which is to fund them at a 5.2 per cent rate of annual increase; that is to stabilize the funding,” said Hurley.

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