At their February 6 meeting, Meaford's council approved a motion brought forward by Mayor Barb Clumpus that calls upon the province to address funding formula issues being experienced by the Grey Bruce Health Services that could result in cuts to services.
At their November 21 meeting, Meaford council was told that Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) is facing the prospect of $17 million annual deficits by 2019/20 unless significant changes are made to its cost structure, and that could mean bad news for rural hospitals like Meaford's. Lance Thurston, GBHS President and CEO, told council that the problems began with changes to the provincial funding formula that hit the GBHS particularly hard.
Thurston told council that of the 32 hospital corporations negatively impacted by the funding changes, five were considered to have had a significant impact, with the GBHS topping that list. In the six years prior to the changes to the provincial funding formula, the GBHS saw surpluses each year totalling $12.7 million, however this year a $4.5 million deficit is expected, and deficits of $7 million next year, $12 million in 2018/19, and $17 million in 2019/20 are being forecast by the GBHS.
“We're planning for the worst, but we're hoping for the best,” Thurston told council. “We have been advocating, very quietly, very professionally, with the LHIN (Local Health Integration Network), with the Ministry of Health, with our other partners, to try and get the word out that we are particularly hard hit. The funding which changed back in 2014-15, was reset last year, and that reset hit us.”
The motion approved by council on February 6 asks the province to consider their own patient-centred focus with regard to rural hospitals.
“Whereas, the current Provincial Government is pursuing a health care agenda which is focused on patient-centred care – the Right Care, Right Place, Right Time which is interpreted to mean that people receive care as close to home as possible; and whereas, Health System Funding Reform (HSFR) places at a disadvantage the unique system of care offered by Grey Bruce Health Services - a multi-site corporation that voluntarily amalgamated 19 years ago, comprised of five rural hospitals, a regional withdrawal management centre, and a large regional hospital; and whereas the funding formula does not recognize the realities of rural Grey Bruce, with its lack of transportation, aging demographics and limited projections of growth; and Whereas, the cost structure to address the health care needs of this rural population is inevitably higher than in urban centres and the proposed savings in one area of the system could be predicted to increase costs to patients in other areas such as transportation, necessary overnight stays in hotels not to mention the absence of the support of families which is so important to care and recovery times; and Whereas, the Meaford site of GBHS has a modern surgical unit which could accommodate a schedule of minor surgeries as well as treatment rooms for the current endoscopy procedures, and these services are accessed by many throughout our catchment area; and Whereas, a reduction of hospital services at the Meaford site will have a significant impact on our taxpayers from the perspective of the health and well-being of our community including the potential for economic sustainability and the projected residential growth; and Whereas, we currently have a significant number of residents who are without a local primary health care provider and in addition, we are anticipating a number of physician retirements over the next few years so that the reduction of services at the Meaford site of GBHS will seriously impact our ability to recruit and retain new physicians,” read the motion approved by council, which then made two requests of the province:
To address the agenda of patient-centered care, the provincial funding formula should be adjusted to support GBHS as a six-hospital rural health care provider.
To ensure patient services are delivered closer to home, the Meaford Hospital surgical program should be maintained.
The resolution, which saw unanimous support from council, will be circulated to the Grey County Warden, the CEO of the Board of the GBHS, the Minister of Health and Long-term Care, and the CEO of the South West LHIN.
“I thank you for bringing this forward,” Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield told Mayor Clumpus. “I think that not only will all members of council support this, but I think every one of our residents will get behind this.”