The region’s three hospitals will receive additional funding this year totalling almost $20 million as the province looks to help them cope with the pandemic and expand services.
Grand River Hospital will receive an additional $5,943,300, an increase of 2.4 per cent over the previous year, St. Mary’s General Hospital will receive an additional $5,693,000 (up 4.1 per cent) and Cambridge Memorial Hospital an additional $7,498,200 (up 6.5 per cent).
“The best part of this is annualized funding, so this isn’t just one-time funding – it’s ongoing funding as we move forward and it’s certainly something the hospital has been calling for, for a long time,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris of last week’s announcement.
The extra funding should help alleviate some of the stress created by the COVID-19 situation, he added, noting the increases come for the third year in a row as the province follows up on its pledge to end “hallway health care.”
“It’s something that’s very impactful for the region, especially with everything we’ve seen through the pandemic over the last year and half – it has obviously shone a light through some of the cracks in the systems we have here. I’m sure this funding will go a long way in helping to repair some of those cracks and also put us a leg up in the future,” said Harris.
Hospitals were already overburdened given growing populations – a lack of beds left some patients getting treatment in hospital hallways – but the pandemic brought the issues to a head.
“When we talk about lights through the cracks, COVID has really amplified a lot of these issues. When we look at hospital capacity, one thing we’re really pushing for here in the region is [being] able to get some specific funding to open some extra beds here to take some of the pressure off our hospital capacity, especially with the ICU beds, and really look into trying to keep those beds permanent and not lose them back in the system,” said Harris.
“Were really a growing community here, one of the fastest growing communities in Canada and we need healthcare to reflect the diverse needs of our community.”
Lee Fairclough, CEO of St. Mary’s Hospital, says the funding will help the area start to recover and continue to meet the growing demands for care both within the Region of Waterloo and beyond through the likes of the hospital’s cardiac and chest programs.
“Through the pandemic we have received support to open a number of additional beds that have allowed us hope, to be honest. I am not sure what we would have done had we not been able to expand the number of beds available. This funding addresses a portion of that growth, and then we have additional pandemic funding to support the expansion of beds. What it really does do for St. Mary’s, in particular, it provides us the base funding we need to expand in our cardiac program,” said Fairclough.
With more beds, hospitals can reduce the impact of so-called hallway medicine.
“Hallway healthcare is the shorthand for the fact that many hospitals for several years have been experiencing a lot of pressures in their emergency departments and have not had enough beds available to be able to support all the patients coming into the hospital. Prior to COVID, there was a lot of pressure that we were feeling and so that was part of the strategy that this government undertook to try to address that problem,” she added.
Her counterpart at Grand River Hospital, Ron Gagnon, said the increase in base funding will help to offset some of the increased costs associated with population growth, inflation and evolving complexities of care.
“Addressing hallway medicine is an important priority for Grand River. In response to the needs of the pandemic, we opened over 150 new hospital beds and other hospitals in our region also opened new beds. We know from work we had completed prior to the pandemic that the acute care bed capacity in this region is well below the provincial norm. Our hope is that the new capacity added during the COVID-19 response will stay open in the long term so that our acute care bed capacity is better aligned with the provincial norm,” said Gagnon.