The cure is worse than what ails us

April 24, 2003

TORONTO-- Even before the SARS outbreak, our healthcare system was under stress. While workers in the health care system struggle to cope with a public health crisis, we should not lose sight of the prob-lems in the health care system prior to the outbreak, or the reasons for those problems.

Neoliberal policies, privatization experiments and funding reversals in health care raise troubling ques-tions about the Ontario government's health care priorities and accountability for its spending, according to The Harris-Eves health care prescription: The cure is worse than what ails us, a study released today by the Ontario Alternative Budget working group.

The study, by Sheila Block and Bill Murnighan, reviews the Conservative government's record on health spending, describes the impact of the recent Federal-Provincial Health Accord on Ontario, and considers, in light of the recent provincial budget, what we might expect if this government is elected to another term.

Key findings include:

  • Staffing levels in Ontario's hospital and long-term care facilities have dropped dramatically during the two terms of this government. In 1995, there were 168 hospital staff and 93 long term care staff for every 10,000 Ontarians. Today there are 153 hospital staff and 75 long-term care staff per 10,000.
  • Increases in federal CHST payments to Ontario since 1999-2000 have virtually paid for the increases in provincial health care funding.
  • The Federal-Provincial Health Accord will provide Ontario with an additional $11.4 million over the next 5 years. But, the authors say that nothing in the Accord prevents increased federal dollars from going toward the Ontario Conservative's program of tax cuts, or toward for-profit health care.
  • Indeed, the first $967million in new federal health care funding has already been used to conceal the failure of the government's hydro policy rather than relieving pressures in the health care system as the Federal governmnet intended.

The Eves 'budget,' while increasing health care funding, does nothing to address the financial crisis that hospitals are in as a result of the cumulative debts of $2.8 billion," the study's authors conclude.