KINGSTON, ON –/COMMUNITYWIRE/– Kingston Health Sciences Centre must immediately add 180 full-time staff to deal with higher patient volumes from this fall and winter’s COVID-19 wave and pressing flu season or patient care will continue to decline and ambulance offload delays will increase, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and OPSEU/SEFPO paramedics said at media in Kingston today.
But that’s not all. More staff is needed. Just to maintain existing services and curb rising ambulance offload delays, 1000 more staff need to be hired in 2023 to just maintain existing patient care and service levels at KHSC.
“Failure to staff up immediately and prepare for the influx patients coming in the next few months will mean the care and staffing challenges KHSC has faced during the last year will deepen. COVID hospitalizations are already increasing rapidly across the province. The hiring for the 180 additional staff needs to happen now to avoid a new COVID-flu season fueled crisis, on top of the existing staffing shortfall that’s created significant patient care challenges in 2022,” said Dave Verch a registered practical nurse (RPN) and CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Workers (OCHU-CUPE) first vice-president.
CUPE based its call for staff additions on a modest 3% COVID-flu surge over the next few months.
To keep hospital emergency rooms and other units from closing and to decrease the time paramedics spend offloading patients at hospitals, overall, across Ontario, 47,000 more hospital staff – 1000 of them at KHSC – 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.
Across Ontario, the wait time to be seen in emergency rooms has consistently spiked since the Doug Ford PCs have been in government, with a 47% increase in the last year alone. KHSC has experienced a 25% an increase in ER wait-times.
“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 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. Now with the next wave of COVID upon us and the flu season around the corner, already exhausted front-line hospital staff are dismayed and further demoralized by the provincial government’s inaction on staffing,” said Verch.
In 2021, paramedics responded to over 26,500 emergency medical calls in Kingston and Frontenac County. From January to June 2022, there was an 11.89% increase in calls compared to the same period in 2021. “Actual call volumes have far exceeded projected growth of 4.5% per year but staffing levels have not kept up with this increased demand for paramedic services,” says Shauna Dunn president of OPSEU/SEFPO 462 which represents area paramedics.
Insufficient staffing resources combined with prolonged off-load delays at KHSC-ER has “resulted in increased response times, which means people are waiting longer for paramedics to arrive to provide expert medical care and transport to the hospital and waiting again once they arrive at the ER. When people call 911, they deserve to have paramedics available to respond as quickly as possible and that’s not happening currently,” said Dunn.