TORONTO, ON – Today’s initial report from Ontario’s PC government “expert” Reuben Devlin “can only be seen as an epic failure to face the truth about why patients are in the hallways and tub rooms of overcrowded hospitals. Mr. Devlin is turning his back on Ontario’s hospital capacity crisis,” says the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), the large hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario.
“The evidence shows that Ontario has a hospital capacity problem, too few beds and staff. Attempts to paint the capacity issues as an alternate level of care (ALC) clog ignore scientific studies that suggest that at least one-third of people designated as ALC patients are suffering from multiple conditions and do require acute care hospitalization, says Hurley.
OCHU is urging the Premier and health minister to put patients’ interest above their government’s plans to give more tax breaks and cut billions of dollars from public services and look at the clear evidence that investments in our under-resourced hospitals and more beds are needed to end hallway medicine.
Access and capacity problems that the Ontario hospital system is facing are only going to grow, warns Hurley. “What’s needed is not a permanent investment and expansion, but significant investments and beds are needed to fund the hospital needs of Ontario for the next 25 years, after which the demographic wave recedes and the need for such investments diminishes over time. Ontario did not turn its back on the reality of the baby boom, and it must not turn its back on that generation as it ages and needs more health care services.
“What’s especially cynical about the politics of the Devlin report is that it suppresses access to hospital services, already the lowest in the country, to move those needed dollars to massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, already at the lowest levels in North America,” says Hurley.
In the last two decades, despite Ontario’s booming and increasing population, nearly 18,000 beds were cut from hospitals creating constant overcrowding all year long, not just in surge flu season periods. Ontario spends the least on hospital care than other provinces, about $400 less per patient, although it is the richest. Patients in this province receive one-half hour less nursing care per day and have the shortest hospital length of stay.
Studies show that just a few minutes more of bedside care significantly improves patient outcomes. Ontario is an outlier in terms of its lack of hospital capacity with respect to Canada and, especially, in comparison to countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), notes Hurley. “It is, however, a world leader in readmissions to hospital, a telling sign of lack of capacity which drives people out of hospital while they are still ill and brings them back for longer and more costly hospitalization – a telling system failure.”
Devlin’s cure for hospital overcrowding mirrors an old prescription of the previous Liberal government to replace hospital care with home care. “We need additional home care to keep pace with the hospital discharges and to avoid hospitalization, but home care is not a substitute for the absent hospital bed capacity. This is simply used as an excuse for not adding the needed beds in our hospitals. We should prepare for more hallway health care if Premier Ford fills Devlin’s prescription,” says Hurley.