(TORONTO, ON) – With Ontario’s politicians back at work for their fall sitting at Queen’s Park, the Ontario Hospital Association is calling for rapid and aggressive new investment in hospital services. The Hospital association is convinced more money needs to be spent if only to avoid a possible capacity crisis within the province’s healthcare system this winter.
“Many hospitals have operated through the summer under very unusual and worrying surge conditions,” said OHA president and CEO Anthony Dale. In his mind, the evidence from what has happened, tells him, “… that even with the 2017 Budget announcement, further investments are urgently needed this fiscal year in order to ensure timely access to services for patients.”
Across the province the association saw wait times for patients admitted through emergency departments hit the highest monthly level recorded since the province started measuring wait times nine years ago. Many of the province’s largest hospitals reported occupancy levels exceeding 100 per cent.
While it is normal to see an increase in patient volumes in the winter months this summer was unusually high, matching the sector’s highly stressed January and February occupancy rates. Now, with weeks to go before flu season begins, conditions strongly suggest that the healthcare system could face a real capacity crisis this winter if no further action is taken.
“Over the past 10 years Ontario’s hospitals have embraced innovation and demonstrated remarkable resilience by absorbing hundreds of millions in new cost pressures and retooling their operations to improve their efficiency,” said Dale. “The root of today’s capacity challenge is that far too many frail, elderly patients can’t get access to the care they really need outside the hospital setting. The OHA supports the government’s Patients First agenda, but it will take time before the full effects of these reforms can be achieved.”
With the Fall Economic Statement approximately 60 days away, and more provincial revenue than expected, the OHA recommends new in-year investment to stabilize and build new capacity in hospitals, and across other health providers, in order to ensure the healthcare system is better prepared to meet the needs of patients this winter.
In addition, in the months ahead, the OHA will be making further recommendations regarding health system capacity for the 2018 Ontario Budget, which expected in the late winter or early spring.