Funding for Sudbury's hospital 'inadequate,' group says

Sudbury's hospital is short-staffed and has a higher patient readmission rate than Ontario's average because of under funding from the provincial government, according to a report released by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

Report finds $56.7 million shortfall for a hospital like Sudbury's based on population size

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president, Michael Hurley (left), and secretary-treasurer, Sharon Richer (right), are calling on the provincial government to increase hospital funding. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Sudbury's hospital is short-staffed and has a high patient readmission rate because of under-funding from the provincial government, according to a report released by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. 

"There's incredible pressure to clear the beds because there's another person who needs that bed," council president Michael Hurley said.

"That's the reality. We don't have enough capacity here in Sudbury."

The report claims that 178 more nurses and 529 extra people are needed to provide care at the hospital. 

It also states that a hospital of its size should have a funding shortfall of approximately $56.7 million this year. 

The numbers are based on the population of Sudbury, not the referral intake population that it gets from across northern Ontario, according to the council's secretary-treasurer Sharon Richer. 

178 more nurses, 529 more staff needed at Sudbury hospital 

She used to work as a clerk at the Sudbury's hospital for more than 20 years.

Richer said budget restraints are having a negative affect on hospital staff. 

"They're workload has been increasing," she said.

"We see patients going into the emergency department where they have long waits."

There is a $4.8 billion dollar gap in acute hospital care funding in Ontario compared to the rest of the country, according to the report.

The council estimates it would cost the province about $354 per person to close this. 

Ontario's choice where to spend health dollars

But Livio Di Matteo, an economics professor at Lakehead University, said that while the per capita spending on hospitals is less than other provinces, Ontario is making a calculated decision to spend their health dollars on other needs.

"So that's a choice. I mean Ontario could choose more to spend more on hospitals, but then again the question is what would you spend less on?," Di Matteo said. 

"Ontario seems to have opted to spend more on public health, physicians and drugs."

Di Matteo posted research data on his blog.

Ontario's Ministry of Health countered the OCHU's claim by referencing another union's report — the Service Employees International Union  — that said Ontario and Quebec lead the country in spending health dollars "wisely and efficiently."

In a statement, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Eric Hoskins, wrote that Sudbury-area hospitals have received $3 million more in operating funding this year, and that the OCHU report fails to consider personal support workers, nurses and other health-care providers who are providing care to patients in their homes and other settings within the community.

Sudbury hospital working on reducing patient readmissions

Although they couldn't comment on the specific data collected for the report, Health Sciences North (HSN) spokesperson Dan Lessard said that the hospital in Sudbury's primary aim is to reduce patient readmission.

"We know that patients and their families are concerned about their health after they are discharged from hospital, and that's why we've put a major focus over the past few years on reducing hospital readmissions and improving the transitions patients make when they go from the hospital to the home," Lessard said. 

"This work has been done with input from our patient advisors and HSN's community partners."

Lessard said that readmission rates are often affected by factors beyond a hospital's control, such as the overall health of a patient, and access to family medicine, specialized care, home care and long-term care.

This makes patient care a system-wide issue, not just limited to the hospital.

Using that metric, Lessard said HSN is performing on average with other hospitals.

"According to the latest CIHI data," Lessard said.

"Our readmission rates are on par with the Ontario and Canadian averages (within 1 percentage point), but we know there's more improvement that needs to be made and we're working on it."


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