John Robbins wrote in “Craitor vows to help NHS dig out of debt”, (St. Catharines Standard, Dec.18, 2008):
“One of the Niagara Health System's most outspoken critics says he's willing to go to bat for the organization to find a solution to a long-standing financial problem.
Niagara Falls Liberal MPP Kim Craitor said he's prepared to ask the provincial government to help the NHS dig itself out from under a massive debt burden that's "choking" the organization and diverting money from frontline services.
"Certainly, I've been critical of the NHS, but I've also said there's another side to this story," Craitor said.
"My gosh, the amount of money the NHS has to spend to manage its debt should be going into (services) for patients."
Craitor made his comments Tuesday evening, following a decision by the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network to approve the NHS's controversial plan to restructure hospital services across its six sites.
During deliberations on the plan, some LHIN board members expressed sympathy with the NHS's financial troubles, including an accumulated debt load of some $134 million. Board vice-chairman Jack Brewer suggested the LHIN will do what it can to help address problems caused by carrying such a substantial debt, much of which, NHS officials say, is a legacy of past hospital restructuring.
"You're in a terrible situation," said board member Bill McLean, a former director of the Niagara District School Board. McLean said it may be possible for the board to make a "compelling case" to the government for financial aid.
Craitor said he still doesn't agree with some of the major components of the hospital improvement plan, such as closing emergency departments in Fort Erie and Port Colborne.
But he said the results of a recent review of the plan by Ottawa Hospital president Dr. Jack Kitts and the LHIN board's decision to support the plan give him the "ammunition" he needs to make the case for government assistance.
"They're acknowledging what I've said all the way along at Queen's Park and that is a lot of the debt the NHS has is not theirs and we have to figure out a way of adjusting that," Craitor said. "Now the challenge is how do you deal with it now that it's there because if we don't, the cycle continues for the NHS."
The NHS was established in 2000 through the amalgamation of eight hospitals into a single entity.
Some of the hospitals brought with them a debt load the newly created hospital corporation was required to assume. The NHS, one of the last hospital amalgamations in Ontario, missed out on money set aside by the government of the day to cover the one-time costs of restructuring.
In 2005, the NHS assumed responsibility for another $30 million in debt as a result of another restructuring exercise that saw the NHS and Hotel Dieu hospital in St. Catharines exchange services and buildings.
"Those are the primary factors that have given us this balance-sheet debt that there's no real source of cash to repay over time," NHS president and CEO Debbie Sevenpifer said Wednesday.
"So what that does over the year is we incur interest cost on that debt that would be better spent on front-line patient care."
In addition, the NHS is running a yearly operating deficit, meaning the organization is spending more than it takes in.
Even with the cost savings identified in the hospital improvement plan, it's projected the organization's debt will balloon to $161 million by the 2012-13 fiscal year. If that happens, the yearly interest charges will increase to $3 million from the current $2 million.”
One of the most ridiculous recent statements coming out of a McGuinty Liberal MPP this time comes from Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor:
“My gosh, the amount of money the NHS has to spend to manage its debt should be going into (services) for patients."
Can Craitor, or St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, or Health Minister David Caplan, or Premier Dalton McGuinty himself, answer why the NHS’s much-vaunted “debt” is portrayed as somehow being otherworldly; as if somehow it is not and never was related to actual past patient care in Niagara??
It is an outright lie for Liberal MPP Kim Craitor to state that the NHS’s debt “IS NOT THEIRS”.
But of course it’s theirs: the "debt" (as it is portrayed), exists because Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have underfunded their ideologically-based single-payer health-care monopoly. McGuinty's Liberals have neglected to properly fund their own monopoly health care system.
This is, in fact, the Liberal government’s debt to assume – not someone else’s.
Liberals run a legislated single-payer health monopoly; Liberals ARE the single-payer!! Now they are trying to pretend that their misguided single-payer ideology (coupled with their health-care budget rationing) somehow has no bearing on the current financial situation at the NHS?!
It is no one other than the Liberals themselves who are "choking" the health care sytem, which in their next hypocritical breath they claim they are upholding!!!
How can the financials of government-funded hospitals even be compared to the financial criteria of other businesses: a hospital runs on the largesse of government fiat. It's not a business model in any normal sense, it's an institutionalized monopoly construct bereft of competitive market incentives.
The NHS’s “debt” is fiction – it only exists by virtue of Liberal underfunding. The Liberals pretend to adhere to a faulty single-payer health-care ideology, while at the same time “fobbing off” (as Jim Bradley likes to say) responsibility for the resultant debts onto others.
The NHS’s debt is a direct consequence of Liberal government ideology. Repeat that several times until you fully grasp the implications.
Liberals shirked their much-vowed responsibility for funding patient care; Liberals forced the hospital system into a Liberal-manufactured debt. End of story.
There is no-one else to blame, not hospital boards, or doctors, or unions, or the convenient patsies over at the LHIN.
Do not blame previous amalgamations: these were also made under the duress of a false, government-run, single-payer monopoly health-care ideology. The onerous (and odious?) single-payer socialist conditions under which the deal of amalgamation was made then, are the same conditions propagated by McGuinty’s Liberal government today.
So let’s not pretend that this debt wouldn’t have been even larger, had the previous amalgamations NOT been made: Craitor would have been wringing his hands today whining about eight other systems! (In fact, Craitor - just a year ago - was actually considering breaking the NHS back into its smaller systems…!!! Whaaaa…?)
The debt is fake, folks: it’s Liberal McGuinty government propaganda. McGuinty and his band of Liberal liars gained power pretending that our universal health-care Utopia was somehow problem-free; meanwhile, to maintain the illusion, they orchestrated systemic cuts to the very system which, by their own laws, ONLY THEY, as the ONLY LEGAL PAYER, could fund.
The newspaper story headline “Craitor vows to help NHS dig out of debt,” epitomizes the Orwellian concept of 'newspeak'; when, of course, Craitor’s ideology is responsible FOR the debt!
Now, the fox declares his intention to patrol the henhouse!