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Ontario hospital bed crunch ‘extreme’

Posted: April 28, 2017

(February 11, 2017)

By: Antonella Artuso, Toronto Sun

Ontario has 2.3 hospital beds per 1,000 residents — barely ahead of countries with rock bottom bed counts like Mexico and Chile, the Ontario Health Coalition says.

Executive Director Natalie Mehra said the average across Canada is 3.5 per 1,000 patients.

“The hospital bed crunch is extreme in Ontario — all across Ontario, the large community hospitals across the province,” she said. “The government has purposefully kept the (hospital) funding at less than the rate of inflation to force downsizing for a decade.”

The province had 2.5 beds for 1,000 residents in 2008-09, she said.

Ontario increased hospital funding in last year’s budget after a four-year freeze to base funding.

By the OHC’s accounting — the Ontario Hospital Association could not be reached to confirm the number — the province’s hospitals are operating at almost 99% capacity on average.

European countries have been debating the ideal hospital capacity rate in recent years and have settled on 80 to 85%, Mehra said.

While there can be efficiencies in more populated areas, nurses have been complaining their numbers are dropping too,

A backgrounder document by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) says Ontario had 711 registered nurses/nurse practitioners per 100,000 residents in 2015, down from 725 in 2009.

“In 2015, Ontario moved into last place among the provinces and territories,” the document says. “This inevitably has significant implications on workload and patient outcomes.”

Although the RNAO praised Ontario for its efforts to improve the numbers in 2012-14, it now says the province would need to add about 17,920 more RNs and NPs to “catch up with the rest of Canada.”

According to the Canadian Medical Association 2015 figures, Ontario has 2.2 doctors per 1,000 people, not the lowest in the country but below the Canadian average of 2.28 physicians per 1,000.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Ontario has increased home care nursing by 350,000 hours and added 1.3 million hours of personal support in the home.

The province has also increased the number of patients treated in hospitals, while reducing the average length of stay for surgical and medical admissions, he said.

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