December 9, 2023

Waitlists are growing at Guelph Community Health Centre and the agency needs a budget increase in order to keep up with demand. 

In an open letter to the Ontario government ahead of provincial budget deliberations, CEO Melissa Kwiatkowski asked for an eight per cent budget increase.

The last time the health centre saw a budget increase was 10 years ago, the letter said.

“We can no longer meet the growing demand for services in our community on an out-of-date budget,” Kwiatkowski wrote in the letter. “We simply cannot pay 2023 bills with a 2013 budget. And we cannot meet 2023 demands with 2013 resources.”

Guelph Community Health Centre provides primary care, wraparound health supports, and community programs for people who face barriers to their health. The agency’s clients include vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities, addictions and those who are precariously housed. 

“We’re seeing a crisis in communities around mental health and addictions. Crisis lines overflowing, wait times increasing, limited access to psychiatry, all of those things that are leading our communities as a whole to be in crisis,” she told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Morning Edition.

Inadequate funding means the health centre has to make difficult decisions. 

“Sometimes we can’t fill vacancies right away and that means the wait list for our services increases. That means that people are in need in the community right now that we can’t service and will continue to have unmet needs,” Kwiatkowski said. 

Healthcare funds needed across the system

Hospitals and health centres across the province are facing similar financial strain. Last week, Ottawa announced an investment of nearly $200 billion in health care across the country over the next decade to alleviate immediate strain on the health-care system. The proposal falls short of the annual $28-billion increase the premiers had been requesting. 

Dr. Danielle Martin, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that federal cash should fund team-based care. 

“About a third of Ontarians have access to a model where doctors work in groups with nurses, pharmacists and other health-care providers. It’s a team-based model much more effective at allowing people to get rapid access as opposed to a single-provider model, and it costs money,” Martin said.

Ontario recently announced $30 million in new funding to create 18 new primary care health teams across the province. 

“We’re going to need a lot more than that, probably at least 10 times more,” Martin said. 

Existing teams, like the Guelph Community Health Centre, also need more funding to address backlogs, Martin said.

Kwiatkowski said there is lots of research and evidence that shows well-resourced primary care systems can take pressure off of emergency departments and reduce hospitalizations. 

“So when we can do more upstream to keep people healthy in the community, we take pressure off of other parts of the system and we keep people out of crisis,” she added. 


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