Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office, an Office of the Legislature that provides scrutiny over fiscal (budget) matters, reported yesterday that the province’s planned health care funding is too low to meet population need. The FAO said the drivers of annual health-sector spending — the aging and growing population, and inflation — will grow by an average of 4.3 per cent annually, considerably more than the government’s planned 2.9 per cent growth in spending on existing programs.
“Unless the province can find significant efficiencies in the health sector, additional spending will be required in order to avoid reductions in health-care access or quality in the coming years,” said FAO chief financial analyst Jeffrey Novak.
Ontario’s new Health Minister responded yesterday but did not provide any concrete details of what they plan. In a statement to the media, Helena Jazcek is quoted as saying: “We need to be responsive to families that have struggled with access to care by putting patients first….That is why we are making a deliberate choice to run a deficit, so that we can invest more in health care, hospitals, home care, mental health and long term care.”
The Ontario Health Coalition is asking for 5.2 per cent funding increase for hospitals to deal with the province’s hospital crisis. Funding is needed to restore beds and services to address the grave problems of patients on stretchers in hallways for days unable to get into overcrowded hospital wards; closed operating rooms and cancelled surgeries; and the closures of wards, clinics, and entire small and rural hospitals. Currently, the Liberal government’s plan is to increase funding in next year’s budget and then reduce it again the year after the election. The NDP has been advocating vociferously to stop the hospital cuts and closures and deal with the overcrowding crisis. So far, their commitment is to meet population growth/inflation and the”unique needs of communities” but we have not seen a concrete number yet. The Conservatives are writing a new platform under Doug Ford. The current platform called for billions in public service cuts without specifying where they would fall, but almost certainly impacting health care negatively. To date, Ford has not said much about hospitals, only that he wants to talk with nurses and teachers. We will be pushing for commitments that will actually mean improvements for Ontarians as the provincial election nears.