Crowding in Hospitals Illustrates Need for Investment, Ontario Hospital Association
Anthony Dale, Ontario Hospital Association
As flu season reaches its peak, many Ontario hospitals are nearing capacity and struggling to deal with a surge of sick patients in emergency rooms. As demand increases, it’s time for a system-wide solution that will ensure that that patients and clients have timely access to the high-quality health care they need through the remainder of the winter – and in the year ahead.
Wait times for emergency rooms are a key metric used to determine how well the health care system is performing. Currently, for patients waiting to be admitted to hospitals, wait times have gone up by 13 per cent.
Increasing wait times are the result of a high number of hospital beds that are being occupied by patients who no longer require acute care – but who cannot get access in a more appropriate setting – such as in the community care or long-term care sectors.
Ontario’s growing and aging population has resulted in a larger number of seniors with more complex health challenges.
The unfortunate reality is that in the short-term, these patients and their families are unable to receive the complex care they need at home or in the community. Therefore, they are unable to leave hospital even if they would be more appropriately cared for in a community or long-term care setting.
Fifteen per cent of patients, mostly elderly and those with complex needs, are currently waiting in hospital beds to be admitted to another facility, according to Cancer Care Ontario’s Access to Care Report.
Since September, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), which represents 145 public hospitals, has been working closely with the Ontario government and its members to prepare for potential surge in demand.
In November, recognizing the need to open more beds and address wait times in hospitals, the Ontario government provided an additional $140 million for hospital services. This welcome investment is most welcome as it is an investment in patient care. However, as demonstrated by the capacity crunch taking place in emergency department today, significant long-term investments are still needed in the 2017 Ontario Budget in order to create additional capacity across the continuum of care.
As the number of confirmed flu cases grows, immediate and concerted action is needed to help hospitals manage this surge. Over the long term, it is vital that more health services capacity be created to maintain access to the high-quality care that Ontarians deserve.