There appears to be no end to the debate over whether the North Bay Regional Health Centre will lose beds and employees.
Wednesday saw another round of claims by labour and government over the issue.
The debate began earlier this month when Michael Hurley, the President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OHCU) came to North Bay.
Hurley was in town to explain the local hospital would lose 15 beds and 82 employees over five years because of insufficient annual funding from the Ford government.
That immediately triggered a response from Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli who said the North Bay Regional Health Centre was getting an extra $4.5 million this year.
That’s where the issue stood until Wednesday when Hurley reacted to Fedeli’s $4.5 million earmarked for the hospital.
Hurley says the Tory MPP doesn’t say that this dollar amount will “offset inflationary pressures on hospitals.”
Hurely says Fedeli is also silent on the issue that an ageing population, rising cost pressures and increased use will have on hospitals.
Hurley insists the additional $4.5 million Fedeli announced represents an increase to the local hospital of 1.99 percent to 2.36 percent.
But Hurley says that is still about $4 million short of what the North Bay hospital needs just to maintain the status quo of rising inflation cost, population growth and people who are ageing in general.
Hurley says this ongoing short-changing the hospital will have the cumulative effect of a 15 percent budget cut over 5 years and that translates into the 15 beds and 82 stuff cuts he’s raising the alarm about.
Within 75 minutes of Hurley making his latest comments came a statement from Fedeli’s office accusing the labour leader of more fearmongering.
Fedeli said this was more “politically-motivated rhetoric from the usual critics”.
Fedeli says the comments from OCHU and CUPE were “based purely on speculation, while our government focuses on the facts”.
Fedeli then repeated earlier statements where he says the fact is the health care budget is being increased by $1.3 billion this year.
He says the budget includes an additional $384 million for hospitals and in Nipissing District, the “government demonstrated its commitment to ending hallway health care by providing more than $4.5 million in added funding for the North Bay Regional Health Centre”.
Fedeli says the Ford government made it clear it’s committed to an efficient, stable hospital system that ensures patients receive timely access to quality health care.
He adds the government “is looking forward to making necessary improvements to deliver on that commitment.”