Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday January 26, 2024
Ontario’s Double Whammy: Ailing Healthcare and Struggling Universities
In a strange dance of financial distress, Ontario finds itself caught between the ailing health care system and struggling universities, both desperately seeking a remedy for their budgetary ailments.
Joanna Frketich’s recent report in The Hamilton Spectator paints a grim picture of Ontario hospitals grappling with deficits in the tens of millions. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), Brantford Community Health System (BCHS), and Burlington’s Joseph Brant Hospital are all resorting to loans and lines of credit to cover shortfalls. As Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, aptly puts it, “Efficiency has become deficiency.”
Simultaneously, Kristin Rushowy’s report for the Toronto Star reveals that almost half of Ontario’s universities are drowning in deficits. (Hamilton’s McMaster University is for now bucking the trend.) Steve Orsini, head of the Council of Ontario Universities, warns that student services are on the chopping block unless the government steps in. It’s a financial tug-of-war between two pillars of society, both left teetering on the edge.
The situation in both sectors is no laughing matter, but one can’t help but wonder if the province’s decision-makers are secretly moonlighting as scriptwriters for a tragicomedy. Picture this: hospital CEOs and university administrators engaging in a bizarre game of financial limbo, each trying to outdo the other in how low they can go in their budgetary dance.
In this precarious ballet, hospitals and universities are forced to tap into lines of credit and loans just to keep their operations afloat. As the deficits mount, it seems like the only growth industry in Ontario is the debt market. The irony is glaring – a province known for its robust healthcare and education systems now forced to juggle financial burdens that threaten the very foundations of these institutions.
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) suggests that the province has chosen not to enforce accountability agreements mandating balanced budgets for hospitals. On the other side of the stage, universities are pleading for a boost in funding and the leeway to increase tuition fees. The government, it seems, holds the purse strings to a performance that impacts the well-being of both patients and students.
In this unfortunate duet, the people of Ontario are left as spectators, watching their essential services spiral into uncertainty. It’s time for the government to rewrite the script, providing the necessary financial support to ensure the stability of healthcare and education. The province’s future depends on it, and the citizens of Ontario deserve more than a front-row seat to a financial tragedy.