December 10, 2023

‘We can no longer meet the growing demand for services in our community on an out-of-date budget,’ writes Community Health Centre CEO Melissa Kwiatkowski

The following opinion piece was submitted by Melissa Kwiatkowski, CEO of the Guelph Community Health Centre.

Last week the Guelph Community Health Centre (Guelph CHC) made a written submission through our provincial government’s pre-budget consultation process with a clear message: We can no longer meet the growing demand for services in our community on an out-of-date budget. We need an eight per cent bump for operations.

Guelph CHC provides primary care (family medicine), wraparound health supports and community programs for community members who face barriers to their health and wellbeing. Our services are rooted in the social determinants of health, anti-oppression and cultural safety. When adequately funded, our services alleviate pressure on the health care system and divert patients from hospitals.

Many of our clients live in poverty, and some are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. We support community members with moderate to severe mental health and/or addiction issues, disabilities, vulnerable children and their families who may be experiencing violence or family conflict, and many other groups that have been historically marginalized in the health care system.

Despite this important work, as a government-funded health care organization, it has been more than a decade since Guelph CHC saw an increase in operations funding. Meanwhile, every single cost has been rising steadily for years – most dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s the cost of additional medical supplies including PPE that we need to do our work. The cost of repairing and maintaining essential equipment including elevators in our physical spaces. The cost of insurance we are required to pay before we can deliver healthcare services. Every one of them costs more today than it did 10 years ago.

There are new costs too. With the pandemic, primary care practices like ours stayed nimble and patient-focused by delivering virtual services in addition to maintaining most in-person services. The associated technology, insurance and cyber-security costs are large and unavoidable.

We simply cannot pay 2023 bills with a 2013 budget. And we cannot meet 2023 demands with 2013 resources.

What happens when publicly-funded healthcare providers do not have adequate resources to keep pace with demand? We make difficult decisions that impact our clients. We lose opportunities for health promotion and prevention programs that are essential to lifting us out of crisis mode. Eventually, our community’s needs become even more complex.

Our provincial government has assured Ontarians it has a Plan to Stay Open. It is our hope that, with adequate operations funding, we can aim for something higher – A plan for thriving, healthy communities.

As a next step, we must recognize together that the cost of supporting clients and our community with safe, quality and comprehensive health care services has gone up in the last 10 years. And the cost of ignoring this fact is even higher.

Melissa Kwiatkowski


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