Ontario Health Coalition

Ontario Health Coalition

July 14, 2014 16:47 ET

Health Care Advocates Warn More and Deeper Cuts to Hospitals Mean More Costs for Patients When They Can Least Afford to Pay

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - July 14, 2014) - Politicking by Bond Agencies and Pro-Privatization Groups Not in the Public Interest. While there is all kinds of pressure on the provincial government to cut spending (which really means cutting funding for public services like health care), there is a distinct bias in most of the crafted messages that have been put out to pre-empt the Ontario Budget and frame the issues.

Ontario, in fact spends, the least of all provinces in Canada on our public services. In plain language that means, we fund our roads, schools, public transit, justice system, and yes, health care, less than anyone else. (Not coincidentally we pay the highest user fees for tuitions and health care also.) This is both true on a per capita (per person) basis, and we are almost at the bottom of the country in terms of spending as a percentage of our provincial GDP.

According to the initial version of the 2014 Budget released in May, prior to the provincial election,
"Ontario has the lowest program spending [that is, spending on public services] per capita and raises the lowest total revenue per capita among Canadian provinces, including from federal transfers."

Thus, we have among the lowest corporate tax rates, among the lowest tax rates, fund all public services the lowest, and in health care -

  • Ontario has cut hospital funding as a proportion of health care spending for three decades (source: Ontario Ministry of Finance, Provincial Budgets 1985- current)
  • Health care spending as a proportion of the provincial budget is shrinking, and has been shrinking for more than a decade. It has declined from 47% to 42% of the budget (source: Ontario Budgets 2000 - 2014)
  • Ontario funds our hospitals at the lowest rate of any province in Canada (source: Canadian Institute for Health Information, Health Expenditure Database, 2012)
  • Ontario has already cut more hospital beds than virtually any industrialized nation in the world, we are consistently among the bottom three-four nations in the OECD in the number of hospital beds per capita. (OECD Health Data 2011- 2012).

"Watch out for those who will only talk about cutting public spending - which really means cutting funding for services we need," warned Natalie Mehra, coalition executive director. "This indicates a pro-privatization bias that is all about dismantling public services in order to move in and privatize them. It is not about upholding the public interest."

"In health care, the worst part of the budget is that Ontario is facing a toxic mix of major hospital cuts and the introduction of private clinics," she added. "These will destabilize our local hospital budgets, worsening the threat of closure in small and rural communities. It will lead to deeper cuts to hospital beds and needed services all across the province. It will not save money since the private clinics will drive up costs and patients will face more user fees."

"There are options. The government could take a much more rigorous approach to wasteful and inappropriate use of resources, through focusing on improving and making more accountable prescribing practices and improving drug policies in the provincial purview; through a rigorous crackdown on private clinics over-ordering tests and procedures and charging patients user fees; through integrating services into publicly owned hospitals and a public non-profit homecare system to streamline administration, reduce duplication and move money to care," she said. The fact is that corporations are sitting on billions of dollars that they have made through, in part, tax cuts, while not creating jobs and not acting to stimulate growth," Mehra noted. "There are big tax loopholes in the employer health tax that are not in the public interest and could generate money to go toward stopping the cuts, especially the cuts to hospitals that have continued now for almost seven years unabated. There is room to push for more progressive revenue-generating options."

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