London

CUPE fears Ford government will make more cuts to hospital budgets

A new study by the hospital wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees concludes the hospital system faces unprecedented underfunding and lack of capacity, and it projects significant cuts to hospital beds in London and job losses for hospital employees.

A new study by the union predicts the loss of hospital beds and jobs in London

Michael Hurley, the president of the hospital wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, predicts health care funding will get worse under the Ford government.

A new study by the hospital wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees concludes the hospital system faces unprecedented underfunding and lack of capacity. The study projects significant cuts to hospital beds in London and job losses for health care employees.

The study said provincial underfunding has overwhelmed the home care system and led to hallway medicine in hospitals.

It said 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.

It will get worse, labour leader says

"In fact," the study said, "Ontario provides the least health care funding per person of any province" in the country.

And the president of the hospital division of CUPE, Michael Hurley, predicts it will get worse under the Doug Ford government.

Hurley acknowledged that the Ford government promised to end hallway medicine, which the labour leader said would mean adding 8,400 acute care beds to stop the practice

But Hurley said the Progressive Conservatives also promised $7.5-billion personal and corporate tax cuts, and have warned that a now $15-billion deficit will require sacrifices on the part of every Ontarian.

He said the government also wants to reduce the province's $315-billion debt.

"If we apply the financial assumptions … the Conservatives would have no choice in balancing the budget and reducing income taxes but to cut health care, which is 61 per cent of provincial spending."

Hurley said the projected cuts would result in the loss of 3,500 beds and 16,500 hospital staff province-wide to meet the government's targets.

In London, the study forecasts the loss of between 113 and 183 permanent and seasonal beds at the London Health Sciences Centre.

"We also forecast, because such a significant percentage of health care is salaries for staff, that this would mean between 470 and 1,027 jobs would have to be eliminated."

Fight brewing

Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said her organization is united with CUPE to fight what could be "the most severe cuts [to health care] likely in the history of the province."

The executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, Natalie Mehra, said her organization will unite with CUPE to fight what could be "the most severe cuts [to health care] likely in the history of the province."

Mehra said she fears the Ford government's plan is to "soften people up, to not fulfil their election promises … and we cannot have this go on in Ontario, where governments say a great line about health care in the election campaign and don't deliver when they're in government."

Merhra said the cuts in London's hospitals in recent years are "among the worst I've ever seen … I have never seen hospitals running at rates of overcrowding that your mental health wards are in London," or in the hospitals' acute care areas.

Merhra said any further cuts will be met with stiff opposition.

"We will mount a major fight to restore the services in hospitals, to build capacity in long-term care, because seniors are truly suffering."

Hurley noted that for about 20 years the government will face the temporary problem of the baby-boom generation making the greatest demands of the health care system.

Mehra announced that her organization and CUPE are organizing a protest against health care cuts at Queen's Park on October 23. Free buses will be available to take concerned Londoners to and from the rally.

"We're asking everyone who cares about protecting Medicare … and we're asking all political parties to come out and make commitments that we need to restore the beds and services in hospitals and long-term care … And we'll put them on the spot."

About the Author

Gary Ennett

Morning News Editor

Gary Ennett is a veteran editor and reporter. He’s been with CBC since the opening of the London bureau in 1998. His email address is gary.ennett@cbc.ca