Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)

September 03, 2015 10:51 ET

Ontario hospital readmissions spike rapidly, ER visits up, as hospital inpatient care falls far behind rest of Canada

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sept. 3, 2015) - Ontario's governing Liberals can claim bragging rights when it comes to hospital patient readmissions while at the same time providing the least hospital care of any Canadian province, new data shows.

Between 2009 and 2014, the number of Ontario patients readmitted to hospital increased rapidly from 8.3 per cent to 9.1 per cent. That's the biggest patient readmission spike of any of the provinces for the same time period.

Although downsizing hospital capacity, shortening inpatient stays and keeping patients out of hospitals altogether are the main focus of the Kathleen Wynne Liberals' health reforms, sector numbers indicate the plan is "backfiring and spiking patient readmission to hospitals and visits to emergency rooms (ERs)," says Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

What's clear from the data, adds Hurley, is that "Ontario is providing patients with less in-hospital care. Patients are being discharged much sicker and much more quickly in Ontario than the rest of Canada. Patients are returning to the hospitals in record numbers, because they were too sick following surgeries and other types of illnesses to have been discharged in the first place."

Health sector information (that excludes Quebec) on hospital stays and emergency care also indicates that hospital inpatient days have failed to keep up with Ontario's growing and ageing population. With severe hospital funding cuts, hospital inpatient days are now dropping rapidly in Ontario - with a drop of 13.4 per cent in inpatient days over the last four years.

In the rest of Canada (excluding Quebec), inpatient days per-capita have actually increased 8.4 per cent over the last four years.

"Kathleen Wynne's Liberals are the undisputed champions of underfunding hospital patient care and pushing sick patients out of hospitals. It is not a distinction to be proud of. It is also not a strategy that saves money. Readmitting an even sicker patient costs the health system more than keeping that patient in hospital a day or longer to convalesce properly," says Hurley.

Based on a July 2013 Ontario population of 13.551 million, the new data shows that Ontario had 0.68 inpatient days per capita in 2013/14. The rest of Canada (excluding Quebec.) with a slightly smaller population of 13.449 million had 0.82 inpatient days per-capita - in other words, 20.5 per cent more inpatient days per-capita. In 2000, the rest of Canada had only 2.6 per cent more inpatient days per-capita. Since then, the gap has grown more than eight-fold.

There is also evidence that the decline in hospital inpatient days is accelerating in Ontario, even while inpatient days continue to increase in the rest of Canada. Over the last four years ER visits have increased by 6.7 per cent while hospital inpatient days have declined by 13.4 per cent.

"Even though there are more and more patients showing up at emergency rooms across the province, there are fewer hospital inpatient days to treat them. That's a direct result of closing thousands of hospital beds and the lack of adequate supports in the community," says Hurley. Although the Liberals claim that there is community care available for patients pushed out of hospital, the Ontario Health Coalition reports that there tens of thousands of people on waiting lists for both home care and long-term care.

Underfunding hospital care and closing beds "also creates a systemic bias against elderly patients. Seniors with multiple chronic conditions are disproportionately affected because the very care they need, once provided through hospital chronic and alternative level of care beds, has been virtually eliminated under the Wynne government's plan to downsize and underfund hospitals."

OCHU chronicled the firsthand experiences of patients discharged too soon from hospitals in the provincial report "Pushed Out of Hospital: Abandoned at Home" available for download at: http://www.ochu.on.ca/resources/Events/HOTLINE_REPORT_2014.pdf

Contact Information

  • Michael Hurley
    President OCHU
    416.884.0770

    Stella Yeadon
    CUPE Communications
    416.559.9300