Kitchener-Waterloo

Province won't end hallway healthcare in K-W and is making it worse, union report says

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions has released a report that says the province isn't doing enough to fully fund hospitals, and that means Kitchener's two hospitals will lose beds. This goes against the province's promise to end hallway healthcare, the group's president says.

'Nothing has been done to end hallway medicine,' OCHU president Michael Hurley says

Michael Hurley is president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, which is part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). He helped present a report by OCHU that says Kitchener's hospitals will lose beds over the next five years if the provincial government doesn't provide more funding. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A new report says the province won't end hallway healthcare in Ontario's hospitals and it claims the government is actually making things worse.

The report was released Wednesday by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), which is part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

It noted Guelph is likely to see a cut of 11 beds and 64 staff members over the next five years. 

"Given population growth and aging, that would be akin to a cut of 35 beds and 209 staff in the local hospitals today," the report said.

While CUPE doesn't represent Kitchener hospital workers, they crunched the numbers here, too. They said Kitchener could lose up to 26 beds and 180 staff over the next five years. 

The report noted funding for hospitals in Ontario has fallen behind other provinces. While Ontario did raise the amount it's giving to hospitals this year by one per cent, the report said it should be raising it four per cent to maintain the system.

Michael Hurley is president of the OCHU and he says the province isn't being truthful about ending hallway healthcare.

"That is magical thinking. That's pretend," he said. 

"Nothing has been done to end hallway medicine. And the funding for this year means that it's going to get a lot worse and the funding that they're projecting outwards means that it's going to intensify dramatically."

Linda Pellegrini, left, president of CUPE Local 57 at Guelph General Hospital, listens as Lisa MacLellan presents numbers from the report from the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. MacLellan is president of CUPE Local 1035 which represents St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Guelph (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

'It's really becoming a scary situation'

Linda Pellegrini is president of CUPE Local 57 at Guelph General Hospital, and she says the budget numbers from the province have made many of her colleagues nervous, and will impact patients.

"The waits in [the emergency room] are long, you can't get out of emerg because you've got nowhere to go. You get up on the floors and it's a matter of, where are we going to put people," she said.

The impact will be that patients that "are the least sick" will be discharged to make room for the ones who are sicker, she says.

"It's not that the hospital wants to do this," she said. "They have to balance their budget. They've only got so much money to work with and the government is saying, you do this. So everybody's kind of backed into a corner."

Lisa MacLellan is president of CUPE Local 1035, which represents St. Joseph's Health Centre in Guelph. She says staff are concerned about safety for patients.

"They're really fearful. They're fearful of the stress load, the patient care, how they're going to provide that patient care to that expectation of the community," she says. "It's really becoming a scary situation."

MacLellan says the province hasn't been honest with the public on the issue.

"They have misled us in how they're going to fix the healthcare system," she said.

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo has reached out to Ontario's Health Minister Christine Elliott for comment.

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