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'Health care system in crisis': Emergency room wait times reach all-time high


Emergency departments across Ontario are struggling to keep up with the high volume of patients and staffing shortages.

This week, the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) reached an all-time high of 20 hours for patients waiting in the emergency department.

“As cold and flu season approaches, our team is doing everything they can to provide the best care possible to all our patients,” a spokesperson for the LHSC says.

As of Wednesday, the hospital’s wait times are down to 15 hours.

“We encourage our community to first consider alternative care options when seeking non-emergency medical care, including visiting a family doctor,” they advise.

Other options that were suggested include seeking health advice from a registered nurse by calling Telehealth or looking into virtual urgent care.

For the time being, LHSC is trying to hire more staff including international nurses, and implementing virtual care.

“It’s one more piece of evidence that our health care system, our publicly funded, publicly delivered health care system is in crisis,” says France Gelinas, health critic.

But with staffing shortages and countless backlogs health advocates are demanding change from the province.

“Where are people supposed to go if they don’t have a family doctor? That's what an emergency department is able to do and now we can’t even staff an emergency department,” says Peter Bergmanis with the Ontario Health Coalition. “If this government is serious they better start implementing more resources to keeping emergency rooms fully functional instead of handing money over to private sector clinics.”

Last week, a leaked Ontario Health document was released by the provincial Liberal Party.

The report showed that, on average, just under 884 patients were waiting for a hospital bed every day at 8:00 a.m. across the province in August. This represents an increase of about 53 per cent compared to August 2021.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health referred to ‘Our Plan To Stay Open.’

“Once fully implemented, the next phase of the Plan to Stay Open will add up to 6,000 more health care workers, including nurses and personal support workers, to Ontario’s health workforce, will free up over 2,500 hospital beds so that care is there for those who need it, and will expand models of care that provide better, more appropriate care to avoid unnecessary visits to emergency departments,” says Hannah Jensen.

The statement adds, “Our government also continues to work in partnership with Middlesex-London EMS to provide the support they need to maintain ambulance availability in their community. This includes the Land Ambulance Services Grant of over $20 million and over $670 thousand in funding for the Dedicated Offload Nurses Program.”

However, Gelinas questions where the 6,000 healthcare workers the province is referring to are coming from, as more nurses are leaving the profession due to burnout.

“One thing that is not changing is that we have a government that thinks all is well with our healthcare system, that they have this plan and all is working [according] to plan, open your eyes,” she says.

“The NDP has always proposed to getting more nurses, retaining nurses and doctors and we can start by repealing Bill 124 which freezes wages for public health care workers,” says MPP Teresa Armstrong. “They’ve been working around the clock to keep us healthy, so removing that legislature and giving them the dignity they deserve when it comes to wages is extremely important.”

Armstrong, the MPP for London-Fanshawe, will join MPPs Terence Kernaghan and Peggy Sattler for a town hall at Goodwill Industries on Thursday where they plan to discuss the current state of health care.

— With files from CTV Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq Top Stories

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