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Balancing a budget on the sick and disabled
November 9, 2011 00:11:00
Here’s what Mayor Rob Ford considers bureaucratic gravy: a program helping the poor and disabled receive basic medical aid so they can stay out of a hospital. It’s called the Hardship Fund and it serves 1,300 people in Toronto yearly — people like Shirley Schillinger.
Although suffering from chronic pain after repeated surgeries, she’s now well-positioned to remain in the apartment where she’s lived for the past 38 years thanks to a new $3,500 bed with a special mattress and a $1,800 electric lift. It arrived a few days ago, courtesy of the Hardship Fund, reports the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten. Schillinger, 69, would never have been able to afford it on her meager pension.
According to Toronto city council, however, that’s not money well spent. In a disgraceful abandonment of the poor, it recommended by a vote of 23 to 22 that city staff consider killing the fund to save on next year’s budget. Now a determined effort is underway to save it, spearheaded by Social Planning Toronto.
Those in favor of axing the fund argue that its $900,000 cost should be covered by the province. As far as that goes, they’re right. Queen’s Park benefits from the fund because keeping people like Schillinger at home saves the system $1,000 a day in hospital costs, or $150 in daily nursing home costs. And providing Ontarians with medical devices is a provincial responsibility, not the city’s.
But when Queen’s Park won’t do its job in helping society’s most vulnerable it’s up to the municipality to step in, especially when a program like the Hardship Fund costs local residents so little. According to Social Planning Toronto, the fund costs the average property taxpayer just 60 cents a year – barely a penny a week.
Few Torontonians are such narrow-minded pennypinchers that they begrudge offering even this pittance to support medical aid for the poor. Sadly, they appear to sit on city council.
Here are the 23 who voted against the program: Mayor Ford and councillors Paul Ainslie, Michelle Berardinetti, Gary Crawford, Vincent Crisanti, Mike Del Grande, Frank Di Giorgio, Doug Ford, Mark Grimes, Doug Holyday, Norman Kelly, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Giorgio Mammoliti, Peter Milczyn, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Ron Moeser, Frances Nunziata, Cesar Palacio, John Parker, James Pasternak, David Shiner, Karen Stintz and Michael