Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)

July 09, 2015 09:33 ET

Cochrane: More precarious health status of northern Ontario citizens means deep hospital cuts hit this region hardest, report says

COCHRANE, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - July 9, 2015) - Although citizens in northern Ontario have higher rates of cancers, chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and worse mental health and addictions outcomes than the rest of the province, northern Ontario hospital cutbacks and privatization mean "that the impact is far more dramatic, even than it is in southern Ontario," concludes a report released in Cochrane today.

The report Pushed Out of Northern Hospitals, Abandoned at Home: After Twenty Years of Budget Cuts, Ontario's Health System is Failing Patients, chronicles the anecdotal experiences of hundreds of patients from over 30 Ontario communities, including many in northern Ontario, who called a 1-800 patient hotline. It has also been updated with details on recent cuts to northern hospitals.

For nearly two decades Ontario's provincial government has aggressively downsized hospitals, cutting 19,000 beds and reducing access to in-hospital restorative care and rehabilitation therapies, under the guise of shifting care from hospitals to "outpatient" services in the "community".

Hotline callers were blunt: this "transformation has amounted to a personal tragedy for their families, with loss of life, mobility, independence all chronicled due to lack of access to acute hospital care" said Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), a report co-author.

"The promised investments and services in community care, have not materialized," Hurley added. "Furthermore, the cuts to the acute care hospital system have restricted access, particularly for the elderly and especially for those living in remote, rural and northern communities. Hospital cutbacks, exacerbated by the challenges of geography and by poverty and underemployment in the north, are a cruel gift to a region already ravaged by the recession."

Ontario has frozen hospital funding for five years. Estimates cited in a report of the Auditor General calculated that hospitals need a 5.8% increase annually to meet their basic costs. Ontario spends the least on its public hospitals of any province in Canada and has the fewest beds to population of any province.

"The stories told on our patient hotline are heart-breaking and incomprehensible given that we live in the largest province of one of the richest countries in the world," said Sharon Richer a hospital worker from Sudbury and an OCHU regional vice-president.

The report makes recommendations and offers solutions that encourage the provincial government to make alternative policy choices that include the following:

  • Fund hospitals adequately.
  • Stop the closure of acute care beds.
  • Stop the privatization of hospital surgeries and clinical services.
  • Reverse the privatization of hospital services like speech pathology and physiotherapy.
  • Reopen chronic and alternative level of care beds to give the frail and elderly, the in-hospital restorative care and therapies they require.

Contact Information

  • Michael Hurley
    Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)
    416-884-0770

    Sharon Richer
    OCHU, Regional Vice-President
    705-280-0911