Nearly 5,000 health-care jobs could be lost along with nine million hours of patient care if provincial hospital funding is not increased to keep pace with inflation rates, population growth and an aging society, Ontario’s unions warned yesterday.

And as Ontario stumbles through an economic slowdown, the province should consider investing heavily in the health sector to create jobs and get rid of wait times, said Ken Lewenza, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers union.

“A progressive government would not only significantly increase funding to health care, but go over and beyond to eliminate wait times in multiple services in Ontario as an opportunity to create jobs and opportunities,” Lewenza said at a Queen’s Park press conference yesterday.

In 2008, the hospitals received a funding increase of 2.4 per cent from the provincial government and the health-care inflation rate was 3.5 per cent, said Mike Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, part of CUPE.

“We are predicting in the coming fiscal year ... you will see 5,000 positions eliminated in the hospitals — 4,000 through attrition and 1,000 through involuntary layoffs,” said Hurley. “You are going to see an ongoing and aggressive downsizing of the system that we haven’t experienced for some time.”

However, the Ontario Hospital Association, the organization representing the provincial hospitals, would not confirm 5,000 jobs are currently threatened.

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