As you know, I have been working with our area MPs and MPPs, as well as joining in conversations with our County Councillors from Collingwood, Midland, New Tecumseth along with the Mayors of Orillia, Bracebridge and Huntsville to take action on what we consider a potential health-care crisis in Simcoe County.
As part of this process, Jane Sinclair (General Manager of Health and Emergency Services for the County) and I shared a private meeting with the Honourable Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care on May 15. He was open to our suggestions on how to better work together. I pitched a conceptual template of how the County and Muskoka can play a more dynamic and impactful role in health care and lend value to some of the hospital and LHIN challenges that exist. The Minister was intrigued by the opportunity and saw value in what we can possibly bring to the conversation. The Minister will meet with his staff to discuss while, at my end, I will seek councils permission to engage our staff in an official role.
In the County, we have a shortfall in provincial long-term care funding for our four homes of $340,000. Although not required, we passed a motion to implement strategies that will yield operational cost reductions equivalent to $120,000 annually. Rather than undertake direct nursing and personal care cuts, we agreed to fund the remaining provincial shortfall of $220,000 from our reserves. In addition to long-term care, four of our five area hospitals in Simcoe County face potential funding shortages, impacting both service and staff under the existing hospital funding model. GBGH faces $5 million in provincial funding shortages, OSMH announced that they are looking at staff layoffs and Collingwood General has a 20 years history of deficits.
Our region is home to 465,000 residents, with projections to grow to 667,000 by 2031. Given the size of Simcoe County and our anticipated growth, we face many health-related pressures.
Overall health-care system spending and long-term care funding both require serious discussion.
Another stark concern is that 11 per cent of adults and 16 per cent of children in the region live in poverty, which further complicates their health-care opportunities. We also have an aging population and many of our smaller or rural communities are popular locations for retired seniors. Furthermore, we are one of Ontario’s most vibrant tourism destinations for families and people of every age, with more than 9 million visitors to our region each year, many of whom are travelling to our rural communities for events and attractions and, from time to time, may require health-care services.
Making access to quality health-care services even more pertinent is the vast size and corresponding transportation challenges posed by our region. These challenges alone should be reason enough to re-think the existing funding model and the associated impact it’s having on small-town, medium-sized hospitals.
Now, more than ever, access to quality health-care services is a key priority for small-town rural communities. Hospitals not only impact health care in our communities, but viability and sustainability of our hospitals affect the economic growth of rural communities. Municipalities across Ontario have the opportunity to work together to protect these vital community assets.
As a County we will continue to advocate for Long Term Care funding and overall system spending to make these services more sustainable and respectful to our residents.
Simcoe County Warden