Health coalition to rally against proposed health cuts
By Neil Etienne and Mandi Hargrave
February 27, 2013
By Neil Etienne and Mandi Hargrave
Although certainly feeling the pressures of austerity budgets, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) and the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) strongly disagree with some points made by the Ontario Health Coalition during a Queen’s Park press conference held Feb. 25.
MAHC chief executive officer Natalie Bubela and chief financial officer Tim Smith both said financial information that suggested the board will be facing a $4.1 million deficit in the next financial year (running April to April) and cannot borrow from the bank are simply “erroneous”.
“It seems that the coalition must have picked up old data or information that simply paints the worst picture,” Smith said. “It’s highly unfortunate about the information they released; it’s outdated and simply not accurate.”
The coalition, representing more than 400 organizations dedicated to protecting public health care, warned that the Ontario government’s austerity budget will force severe cuts to and privatization of hospital and health-care services. The Ontario government is trimming health spending by more than $3 billion and the province already funds its hospitals at the lowest rate, per person, of any province in Canada they say.
“Thousands of surgeries are being cut from our local non-profit hospitals to be privatized to for-profit corporations, or they are simply cut,” said Natalie Mehra, director of the coalition. “Hundreds of health professionals, nurses and hospital support staff are being cut along with the services they provide.”
She said that in smaller communities, the proposed cuts range from 10 per cent to almost 50 per cent of existing hospital beds slated to be closed down. In larger cities, deficits in the $20 - $40 million dollar range are being reported as hospital funding has been set far below the level required to maintain existing services, Mehra said.
“Since hospitals are not allowed to run deficits, they are forced to cut needed services to eliminate these deficits,” Mehra said.
The coalition has also requested a moratorium be placed on cuts to the number of beds and the level of service provided by community hospitals and announced plans for a province-wide rally March 4 to gather support.
In the material released the day of the Queen’s Park rally, the coalition said MAHC owes the bank $6 million dollars and the bank has refused more loans; last year the deficit was $2.3 million and this year it will grow to $4.1 million and that MAHC is projecting an $803,000 budget shortfall for 2012-2013. MAHC’s 2013 budget was also reduced by 0.8 per cent, equivalent to $423,000.76.
While Bubela said revenue cash flow into the budget is reduced by the $423,000, the board has had a balanced budget two years in a row, “and we’re actually projecting about a $100,000 surplus.”
“We will be in another positive financial variance this (budget) year,” she said. “We do not owe the bank money and in fact we have a very good standing with the bank.
“One of the things this board prides itself on is transparency and honesty; to suggest we would have $4.1 million in deficit when we are heading to another balanced budget with the potential of a modest surplus flies in the face of that; it suggests we’re not being honest,” Bubela said, adding about three years ago, there were borrowing issues that have since long been rectified.
“We’ve been very open and transparent; those numbers are outdated,” she added. “The financial situation (of MAHC) two to three years ago was very different and does not reflect our financial situation today.”
Susan French, media relations person for the LHIN echoed Bubel’s comments.
“Everybody has an opinion and some of these articles, the reference that they use in some of their reports are very old and may not be applicable now,” she said. We’ve just connected with both organizations (hospitals) and they’re saying yep, what we submitted (in the fall of 2012) to the LHIN of a balanced budget is correct.”
Although the local board and LHIN will not be taking part, the coalition announced plans for a cross-province Day of Action on Monday, March 4, called “S.O.S. -- Save Our Services”. For more information and to see the reports released by the coalition, check out www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca.
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