The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) is projecting a $26.5 million in healthcare cuts for Sault Area Hospital by 2023 in order to comply with the provincial government’s spending plan.
The council - which is an arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) - says those numbers are based on reports from the Ministry of Finance and the Financial Accountability Office (FAO).
“We’re just trying to shine light on the government’s budget plan, because we’re not convinced that people really understand what is in store for all of us,” OCHU president Michael Hurley told reporters at the James L. McIntyre Centennial Library Saturday.
Hurley says that by the 2023-2024 fiscal year, the province will have had to close nine hospital beds and reduce 74 staff in the Sault Ste. Marie area in order to meet its spending targets.
But due to ageing and population growth, that number is projected to balloon to a reduction of 242 staff and the closure of 29 beds within the next five years.
“More and more people are going to be coming to the hospital looking for care, and the hospitals have less and less capacity - so you’ve got falling capacity, rising demand over this period,” he said.
According to the FAO, the government’s spending plan requires billions in extra cuts in order to meet its saving targets - $5.2 billion in cuts to healthcare across Ontario would be needed for the provincial government’s health spending plan to work in 2023-2024.
CUPE and OCHU are now calling on the province and to fund Ontario hospitals at their "real operating costs."
“What do you do if you’re a healthcare worker and you see these systemic problems like continual overcrowding or the fact that patients are sent home too early, or they’re re-admitted?” said Hurley. “Ontario’s re-admissions are very high compared to the rest of the country. What do you do about that? Eventually, you have to speak out about it.”
“That’s what we do, we try to draw attention to it, because otherwise, no matter how hard these healthcare workers work, they can never paper over the fact that Ontario spends, per person, $650 less than the average of the other provinces providing hospital care.”
CUPE is currently planning to roll out a series of rallies across Ontario to protest the province’s healthcare spending plan that will begin later this fall and continue into the new year.
The first four rallies planned for this fall will take place in Toronto, Ottawa, Chatham and Sault Ste. Marie, with another eight rallies slated for the winter and spring.
CUPE represents more than 80,000 healthcare workers in Ontario, with nearly half of those workers employed at 120 sites of 60 hospitals across the province.