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Ending hallway medicine in a year? Not so fast, Elliott says

Posted: July 19, 2019

(July 15, 2019)

By: Antonella Artuso, The Kingston Whig-Standard

Patients wait in the hallway at the overcrowded Queensway-Carleton Hospital in Ottawa in 2016. (Errol McGihon/Postmedia) 

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott is hedging on Premier Doug Ford’s promise to end hallway medicine within a year.

“I think the premier was expressing the wishes that we all have — that we all want hallway medicine ended today,” Elliott said Monday. “But the reality is that can’t happen yet.”

Eliminating hallway medicine — the practice of caring for patients in hallways while waiting for a bed to open in a hospital unit — was a key election promise for Ford.

Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long Term Care in Ottawa on March 8, 2019. Errol McGihon/Postmedia

Last week, he raised eyebrows by saying that over the next year, the province would no longer have patients waiting in hospital hallways.

“We’re working on it,” Elliott said. ” I can’t put a specific timeline on it, but we are working as quickly as possible.”

Some of the solutions involve creating more capacity in the long-term care sector for patients who do not need to be in hospital, and better managing patients with chronic conditions in the community, she said.

Addressing the health-care needs of patients with mental illness and addictions is another priority, easing the pressure on emergency rooms, she said.

“So, it’s improving the flow in the hospital — that’s one way to do it,” she said.

The health minister added she and Ford are in constant communication and he’s aware of the steps needed to help end hallway medicine.

The union representing health-care staff said the government has not committed enough funding to address capacity issues in both the hospital and long-term care sectors, failing to prepare as the large baby boomer generation ages.

“The premier said last week there were 1,000 people on stretchers in hallways,” OCHU/CUPE President Michael Hurley said. “Well, wouldn’t you expect to plan to open 1,000 beds? We’re way, way short relative to everybody else in terms of beds.”

Funding for health care in the Ford government’s 2019 budget and into the future won’t meet the inflationary pressures caused by an ageing and increasing population, he said.

Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) Director Natalie Mehra said hospitals are already cancelling operating room days and surgeries to save costs.

“The people who are waiting in hallways are waiting for admission to chronic care beds or acute care hospital beds. They’re waiting for surgeries. They’re waiting for diagnostic tests,” Mehra said.

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