KINGSTON, ON – Kingston’s largest health care union, today, called on the Ontario government to shelve its proposed revenue cuts and fund Ontario hospitals at their real costs. The call comes just days before committee hearings on the province’s 2019 budget are slated to begin on Monday.
Hearings are taking place in eight communities across Ontario, but Kingston is not one of them, said Brent Tousignant, the vice-president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 1974 at a media conference. The local union, which represents 1,600 hospital staff at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), sponsored today’s event to “help kick-start a discussion on needed investments in Kingston hospitals, long-term care homes and home care in Kingston,” said Tousignant.
Less than two years following the merger of Kingston General Hospital and Hotel Dieu Hospital, KHSC has operated over capacity nearly every day in the last few months. “There are many more acutely ill people coming in for care than the hospital has beds,” said Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE (OCHU). “The short of it is, KHSC is significantly underfunded. The cost of a standardized stay at the hospital is lower than the Canadian average, and much lower than the teaching hospital average.”
Compared to other provinces, Ontario is running its hospital system very frugally. Provincial hospital funding per capita is 28.3 per cent higher in the rest of Canada than in Ontario — $404.09 more per person per year. As a result, patients in Ontario have access to many fewer beds and staff than patients in other provinces.
“The population is aging and growing rapidly and, at the same time, the number of hospital beds and staff have been slashed, year after year, for over a decade. Hospitals need to be funded at their real costs of 5.2 per cent a year or the cuts will continue, access will be increasingly restricted, and the quality of care will continue to decline,” said Hurley.
Ontario’s PC government has promised $7 billion in tax cuts, the elimination of the $15 billion deficit, and cuts to revenue by shelving cap and trade revenue designed to reduce greenhouse gases. Despite these revenue cuts, they have also promised to eliminate their multi-billion-dollar deficit. All of which, said Hurley, adds up to a budget crisis. To balance would require unprecedented budget cuts.
“Ontario needs to meet its obligation to the ill and the elderly – obligations we have not been meeting, compared with other provinces. The reality is that Ontario’s taxes for corporations and the wealthy have already been cut far too deeply,” said Hurley.