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Ontario hospitals closed for thousands of hours this year: report

Posted: December 6, 2023

(December 5, 2023)

By: Isaac Callan and Colin D’Mello, Global News

A new report from a health advocacy group suggests there have been more than 1,000 hospital closures in Ontario so far this year.

A new study released by the Ontario Health Coalition tracked closures between Jan. 1 and Nov. 24 and found that 1,199 closures had taken place.

The closures were predominantly at emergency departments, with some urgent care centres closing too. The report also found an intensive care unit had been forced to close.

“It is indisputable that these closures are endangering the health of Ontario residents,” Natalie Mehra, the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said in a statement.

“There is no excess hospital capacity to be closed.”

The report identified some sites where the Ontario Health Coalition says closures are becoming commonplace.

The emergency department in Chesley has closed evening and overnight at the weekends since December 2022, the report found. Clinton’s emergency department has closed from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. since 2019.

The Ford government said it had poured money directly into plans to avoid emergency closures and to increase hospital staffing.

“This year alone we have added 15,000 new nurses and 2,400 new physicians to the healthcare workforce through changes our government has made,” a spokesperson for the minister of health said.

The spokesperson referenced regulatory changes to how nurses trained outside of both Canada and Ontario are able to work in the province.

They also said $44 million has been spent helping emergency departments stay open.

The Ontario Health Coalition, however, said staffing was the reason that 31,055 hours of care had been lost over the past year to hospital closures.

The advocacy group — which has decried changes to health care brought in by the Ford government, including increased use of independent and private health clinics — said policy choices had led to the closures.

The Ontario Health Coalition suggested the Ford government wage restraint legislation, Bill 124, had led to an exodus of nurses.

The bill was thrown out by an Ontario court at the end of 2022 and nurses have since been awarded retroactive pay increases worth an extra 6.75 per cent over three years.

“The Ford government has not stepped in and set a standard of expectation that these vital services remain open,” Mehra said.

“The failure of the provincial government to take responsibility for planning, recruiting and retaining needed health care staff, dealing with crises and setting standards for access to the most urgent of health care services is at odds with the approach of Ontario’s governments dating back at least forty years.”

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