Canada’s ERs Overwhelmed, Facing Closures

Hospitals overwhelmed by the onslaught of the pandemic still face a number of challenges, leading to unprecedented wait times in emergency rooms across the country.

In addition to a limited number of hospital beds and a backlog of surgery, a shortage of doctors and nurses was a primary cause of dysfunction.

Many of the problems hospitals face are not new, but experts say the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, leading to a crisis so dire that patients are now beginning to condone the closure of emergency rooms at nearby hospitals. to see.


On Saturday, the Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital (PSFDH) announced that the emergency department would be closed until Thursday, citing an outbreak of COVID-19. However, the doctors say the real reason is an ongoing staff shortage.

“Yes, COVID caused the emergency department to shut down, but the reality is we didn’t have built-in resilience from our nursing staff,” Dr. Alan Drummond told CTV National News on Saturday.

Drummond said PSFDH’s emergency department fell from 50 nurses to five, leaving the ward exceptionally thin.

“Someone has to be held accountable for the fact that within a few months we lost 50 percent of our nursing staff, essentially putting us out of business,” he said.

Drummond said the PSFDH’s catchment area covers about 25,000 people in a large geographic area between Smiths Falls and Peterborough, meaning many patients travel long distances to get to the emergency department.

Patients in need of urgent care now have to drive 20 kilometers from Perth to Smiths Falls.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the people in this community,” local resident John Hastings told CTV News on Saturday.

The Ontario city of Clinton was without emergency care all weekend as the emergency room at Clinton Public Hospital announced a shutdown July 1-5.

This was the longest 24-hour emergency room shutdown at Clinton Public Hospital.

According to Deborah Wiseman, the chief nurse for the Huron-Perth Health Alliance, this is the cause of shortages of doctors and nurses, who expects more service interruptions this summer.

“Not just this weekend, but what you’ll see is more to come. I’m going to say for the next six months to several years, with our human health care deficits, both nursing and physicians. We’re really struggling to maintain the services,” Wiseman told CTV National News.

Wiseman said they are investigating everything to solve the shortage of health workers and keep their emergency rooms open, including the use of paramedics in emergency rooms.

Other provinces face similar problems. Six emergency departments in Quebec will be partially closed this summer due to a staff shortage, the provincial government announced Thursday.

Nova Scotia Health says people in all four health zones should expect long wait times due to high demand over the long weekend.

“Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing what we call ‘bed block’ where we have a large number of inpatients and nowhere to send them,” Dr. Margaret Fraser, a doctor at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, told CTV National News on Saturday.

Bonnie Nunn, a resident of Trehern, 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, as Trehern’s emergency department was closed due to a lack to staff.

“I’m really mad, mad at everything. I don’t think enough thought has been given to this,” she said.

“I’m not mad at nurses. They also need free time.”


dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told CTV News Atlantic in May that the burnout rate among doctors and nurses is twice as high as it was before the pandemic.

“Our health care system is at a crisis level that we’ve never really seen, and the health workforce is in a state of crisis that we’ve never seen before,” Smart said.

A June survey released by Statistics Canada found that 95 percent of health professionals feel the pandemic has impacted their mental health and increased work-life balance.

During the pandemic, healthcare workers have faced longer work hours, reduced vacation time and changes in the method of care delivery.

During the fourth wave of the pandemic between September and November 2021 — the period in which the study was conducted — many health professionals wanted to leave or quit due to work stress or concerns about their mental health.

“How do we retain employees? Probably a pay rise,” Elinor Kelly, the Halifax-based ICU nurse, told CTV News Atlantic in May.

“Probably a decent one. I think that should help. Especially for intensive care nurses, because in intensive care we have a lot of people that we train and recruit, but after a year or so they can start working privately for three times the money I make after 27 years.”

dr. Paul Saba, a GP and chairman of the Council of Physicians at the Hôpital de Lachine in Montreal, said he wants the government to make substantial changes.

“The health care system needs to be improved. And it can be not just a short-term election promise…for years to come, but a long-term one,” he told CTV National News on Saturday.

With files from Deena Zaidi and CTV News Atlantic

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