A Closer Look at Ontario’s Health Funding “Increase”

In the lead up to Ontario’s 2017 Budget, the government crowed that they had heard the public and would improve funding for hospitals. However, based on government announcements, they actually plan to lower the hospital funding increase this year.

They state they will increase hospital funding $518 million, a 3% increase. But, on closer inspection, the funding increase announced for last year was significantly higher.

In the 2016 Budget, Ontario announced that it would increase hospital funding $345 million – about a 2% increase. Subsequently, the government announced another $140.3 million for hospital funding in the Fall Economic Statement – bringing the total increase to $485 million. That is, of course, already quite close to the much ballyhooed hospital funding increase of $518 million for 2017/18.

But it looks very much like the actual hospital funding increase in 2016/17 was higher than $485 million – higher in fact than the $518 million increase announced for 2017/18.

A little after announcing the $140.3 million hospital funding increase, the province, in its 3rd quarter report, announced an investment of $95.4 million to support additional capacity for stem cell transplants in Ontario. Sunnybrook hospital will become the second hospital in the Greater Toronto Area – along with Princess Margaret hospital – to provide a full range of Complex Malignant Haematology, including stem cell transplants. Apparently a very small portion of this work goes outside of the country, but most of this work is done in Ontario hospitals.

Now, in the new Budget, the government has raised their estimate of the in-year health care spending increase from $348 million (in their 3rd quarter report) to $483 million, i.e. another $135 million increase. The Budget describes the $483 million health care in-year increase as “primarily due to additional investments in hospitals to support the needs of patients and reduce wait times, and funding to support additional stem cell transplants in Ontario.”

So, it is likely that at least half ($242 million) of that $483 million in-year increase went to hospitals. In total that would mean that hospitals got, at least, a $587 million increase last fiscal year ($345 M + $242 M = $587 M).

That would be $69 million more than the announced increase for 2017-18 – 13% more.

The announced hospital funding increase for this year (3.1%) is in fact exactly half of the percentage increase announced for all other non-Ministry of Health programs (6.2%).

This all suggests that more funding has got to be announced over the course of this fiscal year if they are going to keep crisis from the door – just like last year.

Premier Wynne told the media shortly before the Budget that she had heard the complaints about hospital funding “loudly and clearly”, that she knew hospitals needed her support and that help would be coming.

On Budget day, however, we got an announcement of a smaller increase than the announced increases for last year and further confirmation that they plan to decrease hospital capital funding for new hospital beds and facilities.

Apparently, we will have to speak more loudly and clearly to be properly heard.

P.S.- the good news? Hospitals in low population growth communities around the province are beginning to report funding increases at around 2% of ministry funding for the hospital. This tends to confirm the suggestion in the Budget that all hospitals will get at least a 2% increase in ministry funding. That’s good news – but this being confirmed so early in the fiscal year (which began only on April 1) is also very positive.

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