Hospitals overwhelmed by the onslaught of the pandemic still face many challenges, leading to unprecedented wait times in emergency rooms across the country.
With limited hospital beds and a backlog of surgeries, a primary cause of procrastination has been a shortage of physicians and nurses.
Many of the problems facing hospitals are not new, but experts say the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, making the crisis so acute that patients are now seeing emergency departments closed in nearby hospitals. .
A Long, ‘Long Weekend’ for Emergency Rooms
On Saturday, Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital (PSFDH) announced the closure of its emergency department until Thursday, citing the COVID-19 outbreak. However, its doctors say that the real reason for this is the lack of staff.
“Yes, COVID caused emergency department closures, but the reality of it is that we had no inherent resilience of our nursing staff,” Dr. Alan Drummond told CTV National News on Saturday.
Drummond said the PSFDH’s emergency room was reduced from 50 nurses to five, leaving the unit extraordinarily thin.
“Someone has to be held accountable for the fact that we lost 50 percent of our nursing staff within several months, which basically set us up to fail,” he said.
Drummond said the catchment area for PSFDH in a large geographic area between Smiths Falls and Peterborough is about 25,000 people, meaning many patients travel long distances to get to the emergency department.
Patients in need of urgent care will now have to travel 20 kilometers from Perth to Smiths Falls.
“I don’t think it’s fair to people in this community,” local resident John Hastings told CTV News on Saturday.
The city of Clinton in Ontario was without an emergency room for the entire Canada Day weekend, as the Clinton Public Hospital emergency room announced a closure from July 1 to July 5.
It marks the longest 24-hour closure of the Clinton Public Hospital emergency room.
Physician and nurse shortages are to blame, according to Deborah Wiseman, chief nursing executive of the Huron-Perth Health Alliance, who anticipate more service disruptions this summer.
“Not just this weekend, but what you’ll see is what’s to come. I’m going to say over the next six months to many years, with our lack of human health care, both in the nursing and physician sectors. We really Struggling to keep services up,” Wiseman told CTV National News.
Wiseman said they are investigating everything to address the health care worker shortage and keep their emergency rooms open, including using paramedics in emergency rooms.
Other provinces are grappling with a similar problem. The provincial government announced on Thursday that six emergency departments in Quebec would be partially closed this summer due to staff shortages.
Nova Scotia Health says people in all four health areas should expect longer wait times due to higher demand during the long weekend.
“Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing what we call a ‘bed block’, where we have a large number of admitted patients and nowhere to send them,” said a physician at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, NS. Doctor. Margaret Fraser told CTV. National news on Saturday.
Bonnie Nunn, of Treyhorn, Manitoba, told CTV National News on Saturday that her daughter recently needed emergency treatment and had to be taken to Portage La Prairie, about 45 minutes away, because the Treyhorn emergency department was closed for lack of time. was done. Staff.
“I’m really angry, angry at everything. I don’t think enough thought has been put into it,” she said.
“I’m not angry at the nurses. They need leave too.”
What is the reason for the shortage of staff?
Dr. Katherine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told CTV News Atlantic in May that the rate of physician and nurse burns is twice as high as before the pandemic.
“Our health care system is at a level of crisis we’ve never really seen, and health workers are in a state of crisis we’ve never seen,” Smart said.
A June survey released by Statistics Canada showed that 95 percent of health workers feel the pandemic has affected their mental health and increased stress in their work-life balance.
During the pandemic, healthcare workers have faced expanded work hours, reduced vacation time and changes in the way care is delivered.
In the fourth wave of the pandemic between September and November 2021 – the period in which the survey was conducted – many health workers were looking to quit or quit because of job stress or concerns about their mental health.
“How do we retain workers? Maybe an increase,” Elinor Kelly, a Halifax-based ICU nurse, told CTV News Atlantic in May.
“Maybe a decent one. I think it has to help. Especially for critical care nurses because critical care, we have a lot of people we train and recruit, but after a year or two they go to private I can actually go to work, which is three times more than the money I am earning after 27 years.”
Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and president of the council of physicians at the Hpital de Lachine in Montreal, said he wants the government to make substantial changes.
“The health care system has to be reformed. And it cannot be just a short-term election promise… for the next few years, but long-term,” he told CTV National News on Saturday.
With files from Dina Zaidi and CTV News Atlantic