Ontario’s healthcare system is “threadbare” and headed for the point of collapse, union leaders told reporters in Kitchener Friday as they presented a damning new report on the state of hospitals in the province.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) say the Doug Ford government’s plan for the next four years falls well short of maintaining current levels of care – and is nowhere close to what will be needed to improve care to the standard seen in other provinces.
“It’s a pretty threadbare operation, which is the wheels are falling off of it, to be honest with you,” Michael Hurley, OCHU president, said. “And unless something significant is done, as the population ages and grows, as the baby boomer generation hits in force, this system is going to be strained to the point of collapse.”
Published by CUPE and OCHU, the report looks at staffing levels at hospitals across the country. They say Canada is already trailing behind most developed counties, and Ontario is way behind the rest of Canada.
“Ontario, if we had the same level of hospital staffing as the rest of Canada would have to have 18 per cent more hospital staff. That is 33,778 more full-time equivalent positions,” said Doug Allen, CUPE hospital sector researcher.
In a statement, the province says they have increased the workforce by over 63,000 nurses and 8,000 physicians since 2018.
But according to the report, hospitals continue to lose staff faster than they can hire.
“For registered practical nurses, they’re at almost 12 per cent job vacancies, that is up from 4.71 per cent,” Allen said. “Currently, 2,355 RPN positions are vacant in Ontario hospitals.”
Referring to the current situation as a crisis, the report says the future will be much worse.
Taking into account population growth and aging, the unions say the province’s plan is a Band Aid solution at best.
“The plan is 1,000 beds. What is needed is 8,000 beds. Even to just maintain service levels, we’d have to have about 3,200 [more] beds given aging and population growth. That in itself is almost three and a half times what the government is planning,” Allan said.
In Kitchener-Waterloo specifically, the report says 167 more beds and 1,030 new fulltime staff are needed over the next four years.
“For many families this is a devastating reality. The system is not adequate to meet their needs, and people are suffering as a result,” Hurley said.
The report and the unions involved say they’re sounding the alarm now, before it’s too late.
“We are in crisis now, and it’s going to get worse,” Allan said.
The Ministry of Health says they are getting ready to build 50 hospital developments in the next 10 years across the province that will add 3,000 beds.
But according to this report, the government’s efforts are still not enough.