Ontario's Ministry of Health has responded to comments made Wednesday indicating that Northern Ontario hospitals are facing huge provincial funding shortfalls that would negatively impact hospital care in the coming decade.
The prediction is based on a research paper commissioned by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU/CUPE). The paper entitled "Ontario Hospital Crisis: Overcapacity and Under Threat" was revealed at a media teleconference held Wednesday morning.
OCHU/CUPE spokesman Michael Hurley said Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government has an ethical and moral imperative to increase hospital spending now to ensure that Ontario has enough staff and infrastructure to continue coping with the pandemic.
Alexandra Hilkene, Elliott's press secretary, said the original story was not complete.
"To be clear, our government is making historic investments in Ontario’s health care system and any indication otherwise is categorically false," said an email statement from Hilkene late Wednesday.
Hilkene added that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ford government has been working with Ontario hospital partners to create unprecedented capacity to be ready to respond to any scenario.
"To ensure every person who requires care in a hospital can receive the high-quality care they know and expect, we are investing an additional $1.8 billion in the hospital sector in 2021–22 bringing the total additional investment in hospitals since the start of the pandemic to over $5.1 billion," Hilkene said.
"We’ve also provided added funding to our hospital partners by increasing their base funding by more than three per cent," she added.
Hilkene said Ontario has provided hospitals with additional funding of more than $1.2 billion to ensure the hospitals can continue to respond to evolving COVID-19 situations as well as to recover from financial pressures created and worsened by the pandemic.
She added there several initiatives designed to help communities with recruitment and retention, and promote career opportunities in places that need doctors. According to data from the Ontario Physician Human Resources Data Centre (OPHRDC), from 2008 to 2018 there was a 30.5 per cent increase in the number of physicians who reported their primary practice location to be in Ontario Health North. Additionally, the physician to population ratio for Northern Ontario (Ontario Health North) has increased by 31 per cent between 2008 and 2018, said Hilkene.
"We will continue to ensure there is capacity in hospitals across the province to provide care for COVID-19 patients and any other Ontarian requiring hospitalization."
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com, covering health care in Northern Ontario. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the federal government.