An additional $1-million in base funding for Northumberland Hills Hospital will go a long way to address some chronic challenges it faces in service delivery and planning.
Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini made the announcement Thursday in the hospital's Bistro to a delighted audience.
“Over the past year, our government has made a number of landmark local health-care investments, including this one today, and I am really pleased to announce NHH will be receiving an increase in base funding of over $1-million and up to $335,000 in one-time funding by the province,” Piccini said.
“This increase in base funding is above the provincial average, and it is important because the strains a medium-sized hospital faces in Ontario today deserve that recognition. You need the support from your provincial government for the unique strains we race as a growing community outside the GTA.”
While needs are growing in all areas, Piccini acknowledged high levels of ALC (Alternative Level of Care) patients who no longer need acute care but lack the community-based supports they require to be discharged (and who continue to occupy a hospital bed in the meantime).
Piccini said his government has pledged to deliver 15,000 long-term-care beds that could relieve this bottleneck, of which 6,000 have already been invested in.
They have also acknowledged NHH's continuous struggles with surges in patient admissions with special surge funding, he added.
“After years of the hospital struggling with an operational shortfall, this increase to base funding will assist in building sustainability for acute-care services by providing a stronger financial situation,” Piccini stated.
“We know we need to invest right here in the important work our health-care professionals are doing on the front lines. Thanks to you, I have had a much better understanding of the pride and the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to come in and get a snapshot.
“And it doesn't stop today. Every day from here on, you have an MPP and a government that is listening and that so thanks you for the work you and your remarkable team do for the community.”
As her first official act as board chair, Pam Went thanked the MPP for the increases – which are actually $1,003,504 more in base funding and up to $335,940 in one-time funding.
Went recalled years of the hospital falling short at year-end and facing a last-minute scramble to find some way of balancing the budget, not to mention the way these shortfalls hampered their ability to do effective long-term planning. The reliability of the higher base funding year after year will help address this issue.
Hospital president and chief executive officer Linda Davis elaborated on the continuing surge crisis. Though the hospital opened in 2003 with the capacity for 137 beds, it is only funded for 96 (104, if you count one-time additional surge funding). This spring, she said, average daily occupancy far exceeded that – a figure of 121 for April falling to only 118 in May.
“This will allow us to open those beds and prevent hallway medicine and patients waiting in the emergency department, with staff hired to provide that care in a bed that is open,” Davis said.
“It certainly will make a difference in the care of the patients we serve, and it's all about the care we provide the patients – we exist to provide care to West Northumberland.”
The hospital depends on provincial funding for well over half its budget. Of the $75-million budget discussed at this week's NHH annual general meeting for 2018-2019, almost $41.5-million was from the province.
Davis commended Piccini for the time and effort he has put into getting to know NHH over the course of his first year at Queen's Park.
“As a new MPP, many priorities may have drawn David in, but he has consistently had time for us.”
His attention has extended to hosting Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott on a visit in March and, on Christmas Day, taking a tour of the hospital to speak with staff and patients.
“We are grateful for your listening ear and your advocacy for this community,” Davis said.
Piccini appreciated the high-quality patient-centred care, and the opportunity to see the challenges first-hand.
“Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to tour at Christmas and throughout the year, met with the board, heard professionals at round tables and spoke to the patients, and it's clear – this is an asset and a gem in our community.”