London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is asking people to act with patience and kindness despite growing wait times in emergency departments.
LHSC, like health services across the country, is dealing with increasing wait times due to staffing shortages; some facilities in the province have even been forced to temporarily close emergency departments.
“Emergency departments should not be closing, you know, certainly in a tertiary care academic centre. I would foresee that we would never close. I think experiencing closures of any frontline area of care is concerning for our community,” said Dr. Christie MacDonald, city-wide chief of emergency medicine and division chair of emergency medicine at LHSC.
“Our volumes and the acuity or the degree of sickness of our patients has increased, and the complexity of our patients has increased.”
MacDonald tells Global News while there is a slight levelling out of cases in pediatric emergency medicine, when it comes to adult emergency medicine, the volume of patients is continuing to grow.
She adds that she does not expect the wait time to decrease anytime soon.
Londoner Chris Hodgins says his 84-year-old mother waited more than 16 hours at University Hospital before she was able to see a doctor for severe hip pain three weeks ago.
Hodgins says he took his mother to the emergency room at around 6:10 p.m. on a Monday, finally leaving around 1 p.m. the next day.
“It said the wait time was eight to 10 hours, and I’ve dealt with that before, and that’s sort of standard, unfortunately. Little did I think that having her up there would interfere with me going to work the next morning, but it turned out that we were there overnight,” he said.
Hodgins said he had to get another family member to drive several hours to wait with his mother while he went to work the following day. He said that another woman had already been waiting five hours when they first arrived on Monday and ended up leaving at the same time his mother did on Tuesday.
His mother, Valarie, was diagnosed with severe hip pain related to arthritis. He says she will likely need surgery down the road.
“Once she was able to see a doctor, it was relatively quick, but it’s just the 16 hours waiting to see the doctor.”
He says that while he does not blame the health-care workers, the situation was extremely frustrating.
While waiting in the emergency room, Hodgins wrote a letter to Doug Ford and his local MPP, Peggy Sattler, about the situation. Hodgins said he received a letter from Ford’s office saying they were working to hire more workers and a response from Sattler requesting permission to bring his experience up in the legislature.
On Tuesday, the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance said Clinton Public Hospital, located in the municipality of Central Huron, would be closed on Thursday but would return to reduced daily hours of operation — from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. — on Friday.
When asked if the same could happen at LHSC, MacDonald assures residents the same is not likely for LHSC.
“We would be in very dire straits if we needed to close the doors of a tertiary care academic centre, and I don’t foresee that in our future at all,” she said. “Our nursing team continues to come to work every day, as do our physicians, and our leadership team continues to hire furiously and support the staff on the ground in order to prevent any shortages or any bed closures.”
In a statement posted to Twitter, LHSC said the health-care organization has been dealing with staff illnesses, retirement and resignations. In the last year the hospital network said it has hired 436 new staff members to compensate for the losses.
On Tuesday, Primer Doug Ford’s throne speech acknowledged the issues in the health-care system, saying more can be done to ease the system but did not provide any concrete solutions.
“More can still be done. Your government is actively engaging with health-system partners to identify urgent, actionable solutions and will implement whatever measures are needed to help ease immediate pressures, while also ensuring the province is ready to stay open during any winter surge,” said Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell who delivered Ford’s speech from the throne to mark the start of the new legislative session.
– with files from Global News’ Andrew Graham, The Canadian Press’ Allison Jones and Noushin Ziafati