Hospitals across Ontario could face a financial squeeze because of a provincial funding freeze coupled with a new funding formula, according to Pat Campbell, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association.
The association represents the province's 150 hospitals.
The provincial budget released last spring doesn't allocate any funding increases for hospitals.
A new funding formula was also introduced earlier this year. It allocates some of hospitals' funding based on the makeup of the population they serve. Another portion is based on the number of procedures a hospital performs.
“That's a very different approach to funding, and it brings with it lots of risks,” said Campbell, who spoke about this issue and others while meeting with Northeastern Ontario hospital officials in Sudbury Sept. 19.
“Of course, the first step in that is they'll claw out of your base all of the funding that currently supports those kinds of procedures, and then it will come back to you on this fee-for-service methodology.”
During the first year of this new funding formula, the province has put in place safeguards to ensure hospitals' funding can only go up or down two per cent compared to the year before, Campbell said.
A two-per-cent budget decrease doesn't sound like much, but with hospital budgets, “you're talking about those percentages being applied to big numbers,” she said.
Combine that with a zero-per-cent funding increase, and hospitals could face major financial problems, Campbell said.
The CEO said she also planned to discuss issues affecting northern hospitals with those at the meeting.
Problems caused by high numbers of alternate level of care (ALC) patients are especially acute in the north, although they're an issue across the province, she said.
“I know there's been a lot of focus on that for Health Sciences North and the Sudbury community,” Campbell said.
“It's not unique to the north, but it is a particular problem for the northeast, where there's one of the higher rates of alternate level of care patients being in acute care beds.”
As for the peer review of Health Sciences North appointed by the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), she said she thinks it could be a good thing.
“We think peer review is a good way to go in terms of looking at some of the challenges that hospitals face,” Campbell said. “There's a new set of eyes, a new set of perspectives, and a joint problem-solving about what's worked in other places.”