Volume 91, Issue 15

Tuesday, September 23, 1997

dirty pool


Health changes debated

By Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

The restructuring of hospitals is working as planned despite recent shortages of intensive and acute care beds, London South Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament Bob Wood said.

Due to the restructuring of hospitals and cuts to health care, more people are being referred from Southwestern Ontario to the London Health Sciences Centre, said NDP health critic Marion Boyd.

"All last week there wasn't a single intensive care bed available in London, the nearest bed was in Hamilton," she said.

Some patients had to be transferred to other centres such as Hamilton and Toronto, said Boyd, adding the problem continued over the weekend.

Wood had a more positive interpretation of the shortage of beds, calling it merely a short-term transitional problem.

"The idea is the LHSC is going to become a referral centre," he said. "To me it is an indication the restructuring plan is working."

Tony Dagnone, president of the centre, feels this is not a short-term phenomena. He said the hospital has decided to assume a deficit to ensure people are receiving the care they deserve.

"We are not able to cope with the demand in front of us – we need help," said Dagnone.

Pam Bettie, an NDP research and policy analyst for the health care portfolio, also disagrees with Wood. She claims the conservative government has shown they have no capacity to deal with an emergency. Bettie added the conservative government lacks a long-term plan.

The reason the government did not give more money to the LHSC is because they had to see there was a demand and the plan was working, Wood said. He added the number of intensive care beds made available is up to the hospitals.

Boyd said it is time for the government to act. She believes that the money that has been saved from the cuts should be reinvested in the hospitals now.

Lily Weedon, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said $1.1 billion has already been re-invested into health care, noting London hospitals have received $4.5 million for priority services such as cardiac surgery.

Nobody has received this money, Bettie said. She argued the only reason money has been put into priority services is to shorten the long waiting list for cardiac surgery. Bettie said this adds to the problem by taking away intensive care beds.

LHSC is handling 200 more open-heart surgery cases per year and each will require an intensive care bed, Dagnone said. He added it is a daily challenge to balance patient care with the money available to the hospital.

St. Joseph's, another London hospital, currently has an intensive care unit which accommodates 14 patients but is only staffed for six due to nursing layoffs.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997