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Cuts at Collingwood's G&M Hospital Cause for Concern

LHINs (Queen's Park Report - July 24, 2010) There is troubling news coming out of Collingwood General and Marine Hospital this week.  According to media reports, the hospital is cutting 5 nursing positions, reducing elective surgeries and limiting operating room time.  This reduction in front line health care is not only concerning, it's also confusing.


In Ontario, the provincial treasury is taking in more taxes than ever before. Topping the list of new taxes brought in by Dalton McGuinty is the health tax and the HST.  According to Ontario's Public Accounts, the health tax brought in more than $2.7 billion last year, while the HST is expected to increase revenues by more than $3 billion this year.

Not surprising, the government is now projecting record returns this year totaling over $106 billion - more revenue than any other year in our history.  At the same time, spending is also up.  Since Mr. McGuinty took office in 2003, provincial expenditures have risen 70% to a record $125 billion and change.

Put simply, taxes are up, spending is up, and revenue is higher than ever before.  So why on earth are hospitals across the province, including the General and Marine Hospital in our riding, cutting nursing positions, reducing elective surgeries and limiting operating room time?  It makes no sense to me, but one thing is for sure, Ontario families are paying more and getting less.

I'd argue that the problem begins with our bloated health bureaucracy.  Rising administrative costs are diverting scarce health dollars away from Ontario families in need of care and towards salaries and benefits for folks who will never step foot in the operating room.

In my view, it's Mr. McGuinty's Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) that are the primary culprits.  As I've noted before, these government agencies have spent $176 million on salaries and administration since 2006.  While they were only formed four years ago, that hasn't stopped them from increasing executive salaries by a whopping 213%.  In fact, the number of people making over $100,000 has more than doubled in four short years.

So while patients, seniors and families in Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Clearview and The Blue Mountains face cuts in front line services at the General and Marine Hospital, the salaries and benefits for provincial employees at the LHINs continues to grow.  It's an example of priorities gone wrong.

Why this sort of thing drives me crazy can best be described by a letter I received earlier this week from a constituent who suffers from prinzmetal's angina, a condition that causes chronic pain.  After outlining the problem in some detail, including how it impedes daily living, the constituent wrote: "Currently, I am on another 6 month waiting list [at an area hospital].  I have been informed that more funding cuts may take place before I even get to meet the doctor.  What can I do?  Can you help me?"

I'll do my best to advocate for this constituent, but if Dalton McGuinty continues to make Ontario families pay more to get less health services, the options become limited.  The solution is to abolish the LHINs and redirect that money to front line patient services.  A Tim Hudak Progressive Conservative government will do that, because the truth is, Dalton McGuinty's plan is costing us more and providing poor results for patients, including those in Southern Georgian Bay.

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