The Ontario government spent 1.6 per cent less of provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP) compared to the other provinces in 2010-11. With sharp cutbacks in Ontario, that gap had increased to 2.1 per cent by 2014/15. On this basis, Ontario spent about $15-billion less on programs than the other provinces and territories. On a per capita basis, Ontario is the lowest spending (and lowest revenue) provincial government in Canada. Ontario spent $1,200 less per person in 2010/11 than the other provinces and territories and almost $2,000 less per person in 2014/15. Here the gap is even larger – Ontario spent about $27-billion less on a per capita basis than the other provinces and territories.
The gap is almost certainly growing. In 2015/16 Ontario program spending increased at less than 2/3rd the rate of nominal economic growth, according to the 2016/17 budget. That budget also forecasts increased spending to go up just less than 1 per cent in 2016/17 – or about a quarter of the forecast nominal economic growth. Ontario program spending will continue to decline as a share of the economy. These real funding cuts are having a serious impact on public services.
Over the last two years, Ontario has lost 19,000 public sector workers, with most of the loss occurring in the last year. The downward trend in Ontario contrasts with the upward trend across the rest of Canada.
While Ontario lost, the rest of Canada gained 73,400 over the last two years. In just the last year, the rest of Canada gained 65,300 public sector jobs, while Ontario lost 12,700 public sector jobs. The level of public sector employment was already much lower in Ontario than in the rest of Canada – and with austerity in Ontario that gap is growing rapidly.
If Ontario had the same level of public sector employment as the rest of Canada in 2015, there would be an additional 1.06% of the total population working in the public sector. Ontario is missing 146,196 public sector workers compared to the rest of Canada on per-capita basis. This despite the presence of the national capital in Ontario.
Two years earlier the gap was only 0.63% – or 85,371 fewer public sector workers than the rest of Canada. On a per-capita basis, Ontario has fallen 60,825 public sector jobs further behind the rest of Canada in just two years. When you need a healthcare worker, this reality will come home to roost.
This means far fewer nursing hours for every patient in Ontario hospitals compared to the Canadian average. There are 5.6 nurses in Ontario working in hospitals per 1000 population, whereas there are 6.6 in the rest of Canada [see more stats at ochuleftwords.blogspot.ca]. This, in turn, means far fewer hospital beds and far fewer inpatient days in Ontario.
As austerity bites hard, patients are moved out of hospitals quicker and quicker.
While length of stay is rapidly declining, hospital re-admissions are increasing at almost the same rate. Here is the 30 day re-admission rate per 100 patients.
In effect, 9,000 extra patients were readmitted to Ontario hospitals in 2013/14 compared to 2009-10. Austerity comes with a cost. •
Doug Allan writes the blog Defend Public Healthcare.