Wait times in Ontario hospitals continue to worsen, according to a leaked report, leading to new questions about the effectiveness of measures introduced by the Ford government during the summer to tackle Ontario’s health-care crisis.
An Ontario Health report called “access to care” — obtained and published in full by the Ontario Liberals — shows many people were waiting longer to be seen at hospitals in September when compared to both the previous year and month.
The figures paint a picture of a health-care system in which the patient experience is only worsening.
The report found that, at 8 a.m. every day during September, 946 people were waiting in an Ontario emergency department for a hospital bed — a 45 per cent increase from September 2021, and a jump of seven per cent from August.
The time it takes to offload patients from an ambulance also increased month-to-month and year-to-year.
In September, the majority of patients brought to hospital by ambulance were forced to wait up to 90 minutes to be offloaded. That was a 52.5 per cent increase over 2021 and an 8 per cent rise compared to August.
“It’s a new precedent on a monthly basis,” said Dr. Adil Shamji, the Liberal MPP who obtained the data. “(Physicians) have never seen anything like this before, not even close.”
The report was finalized on Nov. 1 for Ontario Health, the province’s health-care bureaucracy and provides a snapshot into emergency departments and ambulance bays during the month of September.
The signs Ontario’s health-care system continued to flounder in September come despite a flurry of policy announcements aimed at improving the situation.
August was marked by several such announcements from the Ford government that Minister of Health Sylvia Jones said would help the province’s struggling health-care system.
At the Association of Municipalities Ontario conference in Ottawa, for example, Jones said she would expand a program that allows paramedics to avoid taking patients to the emergency room on every call.
“We can no longer stand by and support a status quo that cannot respond to the current challenges the sector is facing,” she said.
“Instead, guided by the best evidence and the successes of other jurisdictions, our government will take bold action that prioritizes patients and their health care above all else.”
The Ford government also introduced a controversial bill to free up hospital beds that allowed hospitals to move alternative level of care patients to a long-term care home not of their choosing or charge them for staying on at hospital.
The report suggests the new measures failed to have an immediate impact and arrest the slide of declining hospital conditions.
In September, after the initial assessment with a triage nurse, the majority of patients spent up to 45.2 hours in the emergency department waiting to be admitted to hospital.
That wait time is an increase of 1.1 hours compared to August.
Patients also waited an average of roughly an hour longer to be transferred to a hospital bed — 34.9 hours — than they did the previous month.
“Our government is not OK with the status quo,” a spokesperson for the Minister of Health said after similar figures were released in October. They touted the province’s new legislation as a solution that would “expand models of care to avoid unnecessary visits to emergency departments.”
Shamji said the Ford government needs to focus on health-care staffing and called on the government to repeal Bill 124 which capped public sector salaries at one per cent in 2019.
— with files from The Canadian Press