The Tories campaigned on a promise to end hospital overcrowding and the “hallway medicine” that results from it, and Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott announced the first steps toward that goal Wednesday.
The new PC government is providing $90 million in surge funding for Ontario hospitals and community health facilities to address capacity pressures expected in the upcoming flu season.
The funding approach is similar to that of the previous Liberal government: it will give a one-time boost in funding to temporarily create over 640 “new beds and spaces” and allow others beds to continue operating.
Some facilities will receive additional funding immediately to address current capacity pressures and the rest will receive funding in time for the flu season, the government said.
The facilities receiving funding are:
- Sinai Health System — Bridgepoint
- North Bay Regional Health Centre
- Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and Hogarth Riverview Manor
- Pine Villa
- Cooksville Care Centre
- Humber River Hospital — Church Street site
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath responded to the announcement by saying it is not enough: Hospitals need $300 million funding bump to end the overcrowding problems, she said in a press release.
Elliott said the government’s longer-term plan for ending hallway medicine includes building 15,000 new long-term-care beds over the next five years, and 6,000 are now moving forward.
Meanwhile, the government is studying the issue with the newly struck Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine. The government announced its members, as follows:
- Dr. Rueben Devlin, Special Advisor and Chair
- Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Professor and Dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto
- Connie Clerici, CEO, Closing the Gap Healthcare
- Barb Collins, President and CEO, Humber River Hospital
- Michael Decter, President and CEO, LDIC Inc.
- Peter Harris, Barrister and Solicitor
- Dr. Jack Kitts, President and CEO, The Ottawa Hospital
- Kimberly Moran, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario
- David Murray, Executive Director, Northwest Health Alliance
- Dr. Richard Reznick, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences at Queens University
- Shirlee Sharkey, President and CEO, Saint Elizabeth Health
Stakeholders greeted the news positively. Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said the flu-season funding boost will give hospitals the flexibility to respond to increased volumes.
“It’s absolutely necessary as an interim step toward more permanent, systemic solutions to hallway medicine,” Dale told QP Briefing.
Dale also said he’s pleased the government is also taking a longer-term approach to the problem, with both the announcement on long-term care beds and the premier’s council. Overall, the government must treat the health-care system as a whole, and make sure there is sufficient capacity for patients in hospitals as well as in community settings.
CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario Doris Grinspun noted the $90 million in funding is the same temporary solution to capacity problems that the previous Liberal government used.
However, she said she was heartened to see the members of the premier’s council, noting that several are people who understand the problem of hallway health care, including the role of primary care and home care in an eventual solution.
Grinspun also had a complaint: RNAO President Angela Cooper Brathwaite was barred from attending the press conference where the premier and health-minister made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, and the media was not permitted to ask questions.
“What type of democracy are we living in… when people interested in hearing government announcements are kept out, in this case, nurses? And that the media is not allowed to ask questions?” she asked. “This is a new phenomenon, certainly for the RNAO, and I believe most stakeholders, and we are concerned about this new development.”
QP Briefing has reached out to the premier’s communications staff to ask about RNAO’s complaint, and will update this story with any response.