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More hospital beds needed in Durham: health coalition

Posted: April 28, 2017

(January 12, 2017)

By: Keith Gilligan, Oshawa This Week

On the same day the province’s financial accountability office warned billions will need to be cut from health care so the government can balance its books, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) said the system is already strained due to funding cuts.

In a news conference at the YMCA in Oshawa, OHC executive director Natalie Mehra said the recent surge in patients attending emergency rooms at Lakeridge Health is “the new normal.”

“There’s been a systematic and critical shortage of emergency room beds. There are too few beds left and there’s no surge capacity,” Mehra said.

The financial accountability office said on Tuesday, Jan. 10 that $2.8 billion would need to be cut from the health care budget if the government wants to balance its books in 2019. Government ministers have repeatedly said the budget would be balanced in 2018.

Hospitals across Ontario are “close to 100 per cent capacity, at 100 per cent or even over 100 per cent capacity,” she said. “It’s not the fault of any one hospital, but of the government. No patient should have to wait days for a hospital bed.”

Last week, Lakeridge announced it had seen a big increase in visits to its emergency departments because of the flu. At one point, there were 40 people waiting for a bed across four Lakeridge sites.

Lance Livingstone’s mother Mary had a fall at her home in November and spent two days on a gurney in the emergency department at Lakeridge Oshawa waiting for a bed. When she finally got one, she was put in a room with two men and another woman.

“I don’t blame the hospital. It’s the government,” Livingstone said, adding, “I don’t think it’s right” that his mother was placed in a room with two men.

Lloyd Rang, senior director of communications for Lakeridge, said in a statement, “Hospitals across the province have been seeing large volumes of patients this flu season. Last week, responding to that challenge in Durham, we created an incident management team (IMT). Yesterday, we ended that IMT because our regular systems and processes for dealing with the seasonal flu surge are working for the volumes we have.”

Mehra said the bed shortage is “symptomatic of a much larger, serious problem.”

The coalition has spoken to MPPs, the health minister and lobbied the government to open more beds, she said.

“We’ve raised this issue repeatedly. There’s been lots of warning that it’s an untenable situation,” Mehra added.

Sara Labelle, of the Durham Health Coalition, said, “It’s very concerning what is happening. It’s troubling for people who are working in the system.

“We need to deal with the critical bed shortage. No hospital wants to cut beds,” Labelle said.

According to the OHC, Ontario has 2.3 beds per 1,000 people, which is the lowest total in Canada. The average for all the other provinces is 3.5 beds per 1,000 people.

The coalition is calling on the government to give more money to hospitals and commit to no patient being left on a stretcher in a hallway or public area overnight.

Rang added, “During the holiday flu surge, we opened every bed that was physically available to us. Our people stepped up and took great care of the people who came through our doors — including the folks involved in the weekend car accident on the 401 in Bowmanville. We are proud of the work that our amazing doctors, nurses and staff have done during a challenging time.”

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