To the editor:
On June 18th Michael Hurley of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions warned us of job cuts and bed closures at the Regional Health Sciences Centre here in Thunder Bay. I believe this warning needs to be taken very seriously by everyone. Our hospital budgeted for a $5 million shortfall in the 2017/18 fiscal year. The Liberal government last year realized that many hospitals in the province were in financial trouble and provided a "one time" payment to many of them including ours which received a "one time" payment of $10 million. In the financial report at the hospital AGM last month a $2.5 million surplus was reported. A simple calculation would suggest that the hospital would have had a shortfall of $7.5 million if it were not for the $10 million gift from the provincial government.
In June, Ontario has elected a Conservative government under Doug Ford that promised to cut taxes. These tax cuts would, it is estimated, reduce the province's income by billions of dollars; some say over $30 billion over the next three years. With this reduction of income, I doubt very much that Doug Ford and his Conservative government will be able to provide a $10 million payment to our hospital this year.
Now, in an effort to protect himself for his decision to reduce taxes, Doug Ford has hired Gordon Campbell to do a fiscal review of Ontario's finances and I am very concerned that Gordon Campbell will put our hospital in an even more critical financial position. As premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell carried out similar tax-cutting measures that Doug Ford is suggesting and in the process implemented major reductions in health care spending and encouraged privatization of health care in his province. Among a number of the initiatives, he brought in was legislation to allow the contracting out of public hospital services and a major increase in private clinics which charged user fees.
Gordon Campbell to quote Natali Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition "is perhaps the biggest enemy of public health care in Canada”. Mehra went on to say about Campbell’s appointment that she thinks “it gives a very clear indication of where the Ford government is going”.
The Thunder Bay Health Coalition and the Ontario Health Coalition share OCHU's grave concerns for the future of our hospital and its ability to provide the service that Jean Bartkowiak and his staff want to give and that we know the citizens of Northwestern Ontario would like to receive.
Thunder Bay Health Coalition