For close to two decades, the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce has lead community initiatives to recruit family doctors and specialists to Waterloo Region.
Our activities started when many local employers indicated that access to family doctors was a critical factor for recruiting potential employees, particularly those in skilled professions who are required for local businesses to grow.
Like physician recruitment, stable hospital funding is crucial for attracting both employees and employers to Waterloo Region.
The current challenges of hospital funding in Ontario was evident locally when Grand River Hospital recently announced 68 jobs would be eliminated due to a
$10 million budget gap caused by provincial funding increases being capped at zero per cent for several years. Budgetary pressures are not confined to Waterloo Region this year, as 70 hospital jobs are being cut in Sault Ste. Marie, 38 in Timmins and 40 jobs in Sudbury.
Last week, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), in a submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs of the Ontario Legislature for pre-budget hearings, indicated that after four years without an increase in base operating funding, hospitals are now at a critical juncture with services being cut because there are no more efficiencies within these hospitals.
In late December, Queen’s Park announced a plan to restructure the provincial health care system. The OHA has suggested that an investment in hospital operating costs will help ensure stability during the upcoming restructuring.
Hospitals require transitional funding for operational cost pressures so access to services can be maintained. To close hospital budget gaps and halt any further layoffs, an inflationary funding increase for hospitals in the 2016 Ontario budget will keep wait times low, maintain reasonable access to elective surgery and ensure important health services are maintained.
Waterloo Region has historically been victim to serious health care funding shortfalls. A study in 2008 by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network received hospital funding at $730 per resident — or about $279 less than the provincial average. Funding for hospitals across the entire 905 region — Dufferin County, Simcoe County, Wellington County and Waterloo Region — was also $255 less than the provincial average.
As the population and economic activity in Waterloo Region and neighbouring centres in the western Greater Golden Horseshoe continues to increase, there will be a corresponding increase in demand for health care services.
Provincial funding formulas must be adjusted to reflect this reality and to ensure Waterloo Region gets the funding our hospitals need to deliver the services our community deserves.