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Patients laying in Peterborough hospital ambulance bay reignites ONA call for Bill 124 repeal

Click to play video: 'Photos of patients laying in Peterborough hospital ambulance bay reignites call for Bill 124 repeal'
Photos of patients laying in Peterborough hospital ambulance bay reignites call for Bill 124 repeal
Understaffing and overcapacity issues continue to impact Peterborough Regional Health Centre. As photos and stories circulate online, the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the province debate on how best to handle our stressed medical system – Oct 4, 2022

Photos of patients lying in hospital beds in the ambulance bay at Peterborough Regional Health Centre are further fuel for the fire to repeal Bill 124, argues the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA).

On Twitter, a series of photos on the weekend were shared by Kelly Carmichael. She stated her 89-year-old mother spent four hours in a hospital bed situated in the hospital’s ambulance bay waiting to be triaged. Another photo shows a patient in a room marked “out of service.”

Read more: Courts overturning Bill 124 may cost Ontario $8 billion-plus, report says

Further requests for comment from Carmichael were not returned.

PRHC declined an interview with Global News Peterborough regarding the photos. However, PRHC’s director of communications Michelene Ough issued a statement, acknowledging the occasional use of the ambulance bay for patient care.

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“…It is sometimes necessary to provide care for patients in temporary, unconventional locations while they wait to be moved to an inpatient bed,” she stated.

“The hospital’s ambulance bay, which is adjacent to the emergency department, is one of these areas.”

Ough also confirmed the hospital is operating above 100 per cent of its inpatient bed capacity alongside staffing shortages.

Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith stated a hospital expansion is in the works, along with a campaign to train and hire “tens of thousands of new nurses, doctors, and personal support workers throughout the system.”

The ONA says there are around 180 vacant registered nurse positions in Peterborough. The organization representing 68,000 nurses and health-care professionals, and 18,000 nursing student affiliates, argues the best way to add more nurses to the workforce is to repeal Bill 124 — a 2019 law which caps wage increases for nurses and health care professionals to one per cent for each three-year period.

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Last week, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office  said the bill may save the province $9.7 billion on public-sector salaries and wages.

However, those savings could be erased if a court challenge proceeds, the FAO warned. Ontario’s Superior Court has heard challenges from public-sector unions claiming the bill infringes on constitutional rights such as collective bargaining.

“That is the only way now that we are going to get more nurses back into Ontario,” said ONA president Cathryn Hoy. “Employers need to recognize the value of their RNs and their health care workers in their system. The fact that nurses are leaving and going to agencies and making double their hourly rate — because they can get a set schedule — why would employers not do that for their employees? It’s a disaster out there.”

Hoy says the ambulance bay photos at PRHC highlight major issues, noting hospital offload times on Sunday were up to nine hours at the hospital.

“They should be prepared for that,” she said. “That is their responsibility to the community and it’s obvious they’re not prepared for it.”

The court is expected to make a decision on Bill 124 sometime in 2023.

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