Why do we squeeze our hospitals?

Peterborough Ontario, a city of 75,000, is typical of many communities in Ontario.  In fact, it is so typical that market researchers often use it for research when developing new products.  Like other cities of its size, it used to have two small hospitals which have since been amalgamated into a single, shiny, brand new facility.  Everyone seemed happy until a “peer review” of the hospital decided that there were too many empty beds.  For a community that made national headlines five years ago for having patients dying in the hallways due to a shortage of beds, having a few extra beds on hand didn’t seem like a bad thing.  How many free beds is too many?  Well, in Toronto most hospitals operated at over 95% occupancy while the new Peterborough hospital is operating at 89%. (Please note that in Europe the average hospital runs at 80% capacity).

Apparently this discrepancy of 6% is enough to take out the scalpels and start slicing.  For a hospital with approximately 800 nursing positions, the review is proposing that 121 of them be cut.  When you take into account clerical, technical and other staff, a total of 151 staff are slated to be laid off.  The report even recommends putting beds in the hallway if need be.  So much for Peterborough’s excitement over its new hospital.  If you’re going to get sick in Peterborough in the future, you might want to reserve a comfy spot in the hallway for your gurney.

As with schools, why is there this obsession with keeping hopsitals to such a tight budget.  Have you ever walked into a public hospital and seen anything that struck you as extravagant?  Have you ever felt that the hospital was overstaffed?  Yes, education and health is funded by taxes, but what better way to spend your taxes?  With in-hospital infections such as C. Difficile and MRSA killing thousands, do we really want our hospitals over-crowded?

Jeff Leal, Peterborough’s of Provincial Parliament has got to be sweating.  With and election less than two years away he must be wondering how he is going to explain to his contituents why the new hospital meant to replace the old over-crowded one, is being downsized to match the old problem.

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