Toronto hospital facing ‘tight’ staffing as health-care pressure intensifies

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WATCH: Emergency department closures remain a major concern in communities across Canada. As Mike Drolet reports, nurse and doctor shortages are leaving people vulnerable at the time of their greatest need – Jul 23, 2022

A Toronto hospital faces “a very tight situation for staffing,” with high patient volumes and staff illness among the contributing factors.

A spokesperson for the University Health Network, which runs Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, told Global News it was forced to take special measures to keep the emergency department operational on Saturday.

“The ask across the organization was for units to take admitted patients from our EDs as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

“Thanks to our inpatient staff, this occurred and helped to ease the pressure on the Emergency Departments. In addition, because of the volumes of patients, requests were made of all health disciplines to staff shifts, and TeamUHN responded so that all areas were covered for the weekend.”

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On Thursday, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and SEIU Healthcare sent a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford demanding measures to reduce health-care labour shortages.

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Those include repealing Bill 124, provincial legislation introduced in 2019 that limits wage increases in public-sector contracts to one per cent a year.

The letter also urged the premier to ban the use of nursing agency staff, which it says are paid two to three times more than hospital workers; work with unions to turn part-time or casual positions into full-time ones; and implement an “aggressive plan” to lure thousands of licensed nurses and other health-care staff not currently practising in their field back to the sector.

“The working environment for health-care workers in hospitals at the moment is terribly, terribly tense,” said Michael Hurley, president of OCHU, which is part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The University Health Network said it was seeing more patients, including many who are sicker than before. It also cited staff shortages, illnesses and vacations as pressures on its emergency room.

“These solutions are short term and we are focused on longer term solutions, including international recruitment, training and deployment of clinical supports, digital health solutions to name a few,” UHN said of its recent moves.

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Other emergency hospital closures in Ontario in recent weeks include the Peel Memorial urgent care centre in Brampton and hospitals in Clinton and Perth.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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