Ontario ERs Forced to Close their doors lately. That of Western Hospital, in downtown Toronto, came close to having to close at the end of last week. (Archives)
On Saturday, the emergency room at Western Hospital in downtown Toronto came very close to having to close its doors. In the province, emergency rooms are temporarily closing due to a lack of personnel in several regions and for a few weeks already. The situation is critical, according to many stakeholders.
To me, [the situation at Western Hospital] is an indication that the system is about to collapse , according to provincial New Democratic Party MLA Marit Stiles.
It's going to take deaths to wake up the government, says Cathryn Hoy, president of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA).
We work with a fraction staff we had before,” adds Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto.
We are closing departments, we are closing sectors within departments, we are losing our workers, adds Dr. Michael Howlett, president of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP).
They say the solutions to these problems are obvious, but the government is not listening.
Ms. Hoy explains how management at Western Hospital has circumvented the understaffing issue in order to keep the ER open: Physicians, residents, and 3rd or 4th year [nursing] students did the work of registered nurses.
This offers an example of what is currently at stake: Can you imagine if there had been a major pileup on the 401 [over the weekend] and a high number of patients were being sent to the ER without nurses?
Dr. Kashif Pirzada is an emergency physician in Toronto.
Dr. Pirzada recalls that the system is under great pressure. There is a huge load on the hospital system, especially over the past two weeks. People wait 6-8 hours, sometimes longer, to see a doctor in the emergency room.
Dr. Howlett says the problem is not new, the solutions are obvious, and , despite everything, nothing is done. We must work to improve the working environments a lot in order to work on [staff] retention.
According to Dr. Pirzada, the numbers are much lower than before. We've had a lot of people – nurses and doctors – leaving the field and finding easier work elsewhere.
Ms Hoy agrees. Nurses quit, they retire, they go elsewhere for better pay, better working conditions. It has to stop. I don't know what more to say. The proof is there. They're closing the ER!
Cathryn Hoy is the president of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA).
The government must stop expecting nurses to pay the price every time.
The University Health Network (UHN), which manages Western Hospital among others, agrees in a statement released Saturday. Healthcare professionals continue to rise to the challenge, but it has been a very long and difficult task and the employees are tired.
“[Nurses ] are exhausted, they are tired, some of them haven't taken a vacation for three years, their mental health is terrible. »
— Cathryn Hoy, President of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA)
Dr. Howlett says the list of solutions is simple and long established. We have been aware of this situation for several years now. Our association has been talking about it for more than a decade.
In addition to issues related to working conditions, Dr. Howlett adds to the list: We need to open the door to more international graduates and ensure that they can enter the system quickly. […] Interprovincial barriers must be removed for nurses, doctors, all [healthcare] workers, so that they can move to where the needs are most urgent.
Dr. Pirzada has a hard time explaining how it got to this point. We have seen no leadership to correct these structural problems. We're not hearing anything new from senior [hospital] leaders or political leaders.
For Ms. Stiles, it's a matter of labor shortages. This is a government that has not taken the situation seriously or as quickly as it should. I would like to see the new Minister [of Health, Sylvia Jones] propose solutions.
Marit Stiles is the NDP MLA for Davenport.
Dr. Pirzada says nurses' work should be rewarded. Give them danger bounty. Give them more money to do the hard work. This is where we need it right now.
Two weeks ago, health ministers from different provinces asked for more money from the federal government.
Wages for all Ontario public sector employees, including nurses, are capped at a 1% increase per year by the government of Doug Ford.< /p>
The Ontario Ministry of Health did not respond to interview requests from Radio-Canada.
With information from Yanick Lepage