‘Our hospitals are on their death bed’: Waterloo Region Health Coalition chair

By Josh Goeree

Following the Ontario Health Coalition’s new report released Wednesday, the chair of the Waterloo Region Health Coalition is calling for an open investigation into the funding practices of the Ontario government.

Jim Stewart, chair of the Waterloo Region Health Coalition, said private clinics are being funded at a “tremendous rate” while public hospitals are being chronically underfunded.

“[Private clinics] are feasting on public dollars and our public hospitals are being starved,” said Stewart.

The report, titled Robbing the public to build the private: The Ford government’s hospital privatization scheme found that private clinics received a 212 per cent increase in funding in one year, rising from $38,693,100 in 2022-23 to $120,693,100 in 2023-24. At the same time public hospitals only received an increase of 0.5 per cent to their operating budgets this year.

In 2023, there were 1,199 vital service closures across the province due to a lack of funding. In Waterloo Region, five operating rooms were closed across the three hospitals; Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Grand River Hospital and St. Mary’s General Hospital. Stewart said there is currently 140 vacant registered nurse spots in Waterloo Region, and that hospital staff are feeling “burnt out, frustrated and disrespected.”

“Mr. Ford keeps talking about how they have hired 30,000 nurses across Ontario. If that is true, where are they? We would like to know where they are,” said Stewart.

Last week, the Ontario government made two funding announcements in Waterloo Region totally $3.4 million between three health centres and clinics. Stewart said those announcements spoke to the “propagandistic perspective” of the Ford government. He noted the FAO found the Ontario government underspent on health care over the last few years.

“They might be throwing out a couple of dollars here and there, but the reality is that the Ford government is chronically underfunding our public hospitals and health care system,” said Stewart.

The report was conducted over the last year and consists of interviews with hospital staff across the province, the Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

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