Health costs

By Jenn Watt

Since March we’ve been relying on our health-care professionals to be there for our community as we confronted the new public health threat of COVID-19. We expected that they would do the work to learn about the virus, organize themselves and their facilities to prepare for an onslaught of sick patients and to limit any spread, and to keep the population as safe as possible. We’ve expected them to work in unnerving conditions, adding layers of protective gear, always on alert – always on the frontline.
And they have done that: month after month after month. Most of us are well aware of what the doctors and nurses, personal support workers and administrative staff have been doing. We’ve seen the white assessment centre tent erected in the parking lot of the medical centre in Haliburton and many of us took advantage of their drive-through flu shot clinic in October.

Disappointingly, as our health-care professionals have stepped up to meet the challenge, the Haliburton Highlands Health Services corporation has been footing much of the bill. Compensation for the increased costs has trickled in from the province, so far only for the months of March and April, and lost revenues amounting to some $350,000 are not considered a “recoverable expense.”
As a result, HHHS has found itself in a tight financial position, as have hospitals around the province. Last week, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association told the media “the hospital sector is facing unprecedented, truly unprecedented, financial pressures” and that if promised funding does not flow to Ontario hospitals soon, some may find it hard to make payroll.

That possibility was not broached during the HHHS meeting last week, but CEO Carolyn Plummer did express concern over cash flow, saying that the money from March and April wouldn’t last for long.
As hospitals advocate at a provincial level for additional funding, on a local level help could come from the Municipality of Dysart et al, which owns the parking lot where the COVID-19 assessment centre is located. The municipality is proposing to begin charging HHHS rent for the space and although the exact amount was not disclosed during the meeting, any break that could be provided to HHHS would surely benefit the whole community.
Waiving rental fees isn’t going to solve HHHS’s financial problems, but it would certainly be a welcome gesture, and one less worry for our health-care professionals who have given us so much.