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Brampton council declares health-care emergency amid hospital overcrowding, wait times

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown explains why city council declared health-care emergency
WATCH ABOVE: Mayor Patrick Brown explains why Brampton city council declared a health-care emergency.

Brampton city council has voted unanimously to declare a health-care emergency amid overcrowding and excessive wait times at the community’s hospitals.

“Normally a community declares an emergency if there’s a reasonable prospect of life is in endangered … We felt strongly in Brampton that we meet those conditions,” Mayor Patrick Brown told Global News in an interview Wednesday evening.

“The health care has deteriorated so gravely that our citizens are at risk. There is a reasonable prospect that lives are at risk.”

READ MORE: Most important issues for Brampton residents in upcoming Ontario election

Brown said similar to when emergencies are declared for storms, city council wanted to “raise alarm bells” and request help from the upper levels of government.

“There’s no question that the top issue in Brampton is the health care crisis,” Brown said.

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“The lack of support for health care in Brampton has created a giant hole in our community that needs to be addressed.”

Health-care emergency declared by Brampton council
Health-care emergency declared by Brampton council
In the declaration passed by council on Wednesday, it directed City of Brampton staff to work with the William Osler Health System and the provincial and federal governments to secure “urgent frontline health-care funding” to Brampton Civic Hospital and the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness “to ensure [both facilities] are operating with full staffing and resources in order to provide safe and quality patient care immediately.”

The motion also directed staff to work with all of the parties to beef up emergency room services, inpatient services, as well as adding additional hospital beds to make sure the total hospital bed count is consistent with the provincial average per capita.

“We have 608 hospital beds in Brampton. To meet the provincial average, we need another 830 beds and there’s no plan for that,” Brown said, claiming Brampton is getting approximately half of what other communities are getting for health care.

“[We] heard from physicians and patients today who are very frustrated with the current government, but it’s not just the current government. Frankly, Liberal and Conservative governments alike have been asleep at the switch over the last two decades in terms of the real needs we have in Brampton.”

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Brampton Civic Hospital, which opened in 2007, is home to one of Canada’s busiest emergency rooms and serves as the main full-service hospital for the city’s approximately 650,000 residents.

During the 2018 Ontario election campaign, residents and health-care professionals raised concerns about the volume of patients being treated at the facility.

“We see about 140,000 patients a year through [the emergency room] and that averages out about 400 patients in a 24-hour period,” Dr. Naveed Mohammad, executive vice-president of quality, medical and academic affairs at Brampton Civic Hospital, told Global News in May 2018.

“If we don’t provide more access, we’re going to be pretty close to a breaking point which is where we are now.”

READ MORE: Head of Canada’s busiest ER says solution to ‘hallway medicine’ isn’t just more beds

As part of the 2019 federal election, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh campaigned on providing funding to build a new hospital in Brampton.

The Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness has an urgent care centre, which is open 13 hours a day for non-serious injuries or conditions. The facilities also offer specialized services (diagnostics, day surgeries, rehabilitation and wellness services, youth and women’s care, mental health services and hemodialysis). Officials said there have been conversations about adding an emergency room in a second phase of redevelopment, but added there is no formal funding commitment for that.

Coun. Rowena Santos, who is also the chair of the City’s community services committee, said her office gets calls from constituents with complaints about the delays at Brampton Civic Hospital. Santos, who has a nine-year-old son, said she has had to him to the emergency room in the middle of the night twice at the advice of Telehealth Ontario.

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“The emergency would be completely packed. I think because he was younger, he was kind of jumped up in the queue to see the doctor. But the wait time was probably about five hours before we got into one of the rooms to see a doctor,” she recalled.

“There were patients lined up in the hallways of the emergency area going into triage … Things need to start happening on the ground ASAP.”

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Global News contacted Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office to ask about the emergency declaration. A spokesperson didn’t comment on the motion specifically, but said the government is currently undertaking “a comprehensive approach” to modernize the provincial health care.

“Every part of our government’s plan to end hallway health care, and build a modern, sustainable, and integrated health care system, starts with the patient,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement on Wednesday.

“By relentlessly focusing on patient experience, and on better-connected care, we will reduce wait times and end hallway health care.”

She said the Ontario government made “significant investments in Brampton,” citing $31.3 million in total operating funding in the 2019-2020 fiscal year for the William Osler Health System. Hilkene added $46 million was also allocated for the “Brampton Civic Hospital Project” and $8.31 million for phase one of the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness redevelopment project. However, she was unable to provide specific details on the projects by the time of publication.

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READ MORE: Province adding $3.79M to tackle hallway healthcare at Cobourg hospital

Hilkene went on to say the province provided more than $3 million for mental health and addictions treatment initiatives in Peel Region.

When asked about the projects the province allocated funding for, Santos said she wasn’t aware of the specifics surrounding those initiatives. But she noted not all of the funding is for local health care needs.

“We are elected to advocate for our residents in Brampton and when they frame it as William Osler Health System, they’re also including Etobicoke in there because that’s part of the catchment area,” she said.

“If it’s true that all of this investment has been made … then come and tour the emergency room and see what that investment has brought to the city of Brampton and its residents.”

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Meanwhile, Brown said the City has invited Elliott — whom he called a “good, decent, hard-working public servant” — to come to Brampton to see the problems first hand.

“I think if she sees it with her own eyes, she’ll feel a real need to help,” he said.

“I want the province to come to the table. They made a commitment in the provincial election they were going to end hallway medicine, unfortunately, it’s only got worse in Brampton. We’ve got a growing population without new funding.”

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— With files from Erica Vella