OSHAWA, ON –/COMMUNITYWIRE/– Unless the Lakeridge Health Centre (LHC) hires 1,200 staff annually, problems with spiking emergency room wait times and unprecedented staffing shortages will deepen as the population grows and ages, said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) at a media conference in Oshawa today.
CUPE based its call for the 1,200 new hospital staff hires at Lakeridge’s multiple hospital campus sites, on available government and hospital data.
The average length of ER wait times at Lakeridge Oshawa is 31.4 hours, significantly higher than the provincial average of 20.7 hours. Across Ontario, the wait time to be seen in emergency has consistently spiked since the Doug Ford PC’s have been in government with a 47% increase in the last year alone. Wait times have increased significantly over the past 12 months at the Lakeridge sites in Oshawa (70 per cent), Ajax-Pickering (83 per cent) and Bowmanville (92 per cent).
This summer, the Lakeridge hospital sites experienced staffing shortages and high patient volumes, and a closure of the ER at Lakeridge Health Bowmanville. Several dozen hospitals across Ontario also closed emergency rooms and other units. These closures will “only intensify” under the current health human resource strategy of the PC provincial government, said Dave Verch, a registered practical nurse (RPN) and first vice-president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE).
Verch added that “so far, the provincial government has not shown the urgency or commitment to public health care required to develop a hospital workforce retention plan to stabilize capacity in our public hospitals. That would require them to improve working conditions to stop the bleeding of staff. This includes increasing wages, full-time employment and lowering workloads. Then the number of resignations would go down and hospitals would not have to recruit so many new staff to deal with the unprecedented turnover rates and increased needs of an ageing and growing population.”
Long emergency room wait-times result in “offload delays” for paramedics, preventing them from safely transferring patients to the care of hospital staff. Offload delays combined with understaffing at paramedic services and rising call volumes are subsequently causing critical ambulances shortages. Since 2016, call volumes and offload delays in Durham Region have increased by nearly 15 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively.
“The Ontario provincial government must immediately invest in improving staffing levels and working conditions at hospitals and paramedic services. We are observing an increase in Code Zeros and critical ambulance shortages because we don’t have enough paramedics to respond to 911 calls. It is causing a lot of stress for paramedics, with high injury and burnout rates that only magnify the staffing shortage. The government must act now to stabilize the health care system,” says Stephanie Taylor, president of CUPE 1764, the union that represents Durham Region paramedics.
To keep hospital emergency rooms and other units from closing and to decrease the time paramedics spend offloading patients at hospitals, overall, across Ontario, 46,000 more hospital staff must be hired just to deal with a 14.95% hospital staff turnover rate, the very high number of hospital job vacancies, the impacts of COVID and long COVID, and the increased needs of an aging and growing population.