TORONTO - Ontario's hospitals will get some help from the province as they struggle to balance their books amid a $154-million shortfall, but they shouldn't expect funding to be as high as in previous years, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.

"We're going to have to find ways to put more money in, but we're going to have to find ways to live with a little bit less given the impact that the recession has had, not only on the Ontario economy, but Ontario's government finances," McGuinty told Hamilton radio station CHML.

"We've been doing a lot to ensure that we can continue to fund health care at a level that meets the needs of Ontarians on an ongoing basis but it's no secret that we're going to have to find ways, certainly over the longer term, to reduce the annual increases that we've been putting into health care."

McGuinty's comments come amid figures that show there's a $154-million shortfall at Ontario's hospitals -- and that more than a third couldn't balance their books last year.

According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 61 of the province's 159 public hospitals, or 38 per cent, were in deficit in the last fiscal year ending March 31.

Only one region -- Central West, which covers the regions of Dufferin and the northern part of Peel, part of York region and a small part of Toronto -- reported that it had no hospitals in deficit.

Ontario hospitals receive about 85 per cent of their funding from the province and are forbidden from running deficits by law.

Many hospitals in the red did receive a waiver, however, because they've agreed to balance their books by the end of the current fiscal year.

McGuinty noted Tuesday his government increased funding by about $700 million last year -- well above the rate of inflation.

He also said it wasn't usual for hospitals to report deficits this time of year, adding their books don't have to be balanced until the end of March.

The New Democrats argue the hospitals can't balance the books on their own, and need more money from the government.