The North Star


Healthcare neglect in Ontario

Patients suffer in silence

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Healthcare facilities in Ontario are still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic. The provincial healthcare system is being pushed to its limits and straining under the weight of short-staffing, budget cuts, and neglect by successive governments. In the midst of healthcare chaos, staff and patients alike have to foot the bill for provincial penny-pinching.

"So it's a huge patient safety issue right now, with the state that healthcare is in, the shortage of nurses is just absolutely ridiculous to the point that we can't even do our jobs" ...There aren't enough nurses to care for the patients that we have, so that's leading to more falls, patients aren't being able to be turned as often as we should be doing to prevent bed sores, we don't have enough staff to ambulate people to the bathroom, patients fall, people having to go to the bathroom in their bed, are just further increasing our workload"

Nicole, Registered Practical Nurse in Hamilton

Bill 60, proposed March 10,2023 by the majority conservative government would further increase the job description of nurses, and could therefore add to the wait times some patients receive. On top of the hospital nursing shortage, the issue of medical supply shortages since the beginning of the pandemic have also severely impacted the care patients receive. Nurses reported to North Star of a lack of supplies across the board: from toiletries, to linens, to medicine.

"So there's supply issues. like we don't have enough supplies to take care of our patients sometimes. Simple things like towels and washcloths, that we use to clean the patients when they're wearing diapers, sometimes that's not available. So then you have to try to find other things to try to clean the patient up with. We've run out of blankets sometimes at night. So then if you're ringing and you're cold and you're sick, I don't have a blanket to give you. I could give you, like, a gown? [laughs] Maybe a fitted sheet? But sometimes we don't have blankets."

These are the conditions of patients who are actually able to access hospital care. But Shirley Roebuck, a career nurse and secretary of the Ontario Health Coalition, remarked that some small hospitals are in jeopardy of closing completely, giving one example of a man who walked to the Chatham hospital with a knife embedded in his abdomen, only to be transferred to London. Roebuck asked "If the hospital closes, who will save his life?"

The lack of hospital beds is also causing patient transfers and ambulance wait times to increase dangerously. CTV News reports that after a car crash on February 19, 2023 in Guelph, paramedics from neighbouring Waterloo were forced to respond from over 30 minutes away. In Wellington County, ambulances reported several hours-long transfer wait times [picture below]. This is in turn straining ambulance coverage, preventing paramedics from reaching others in a timely manner.

Issues exist outside of hospitals in Long Term Care facilities as well. Roebuck told North Star that Personal Support Workers in Long Term Care facilities get only six minutes to do baths. In the face of such inhumane conditions, Ontario Health Coalition, a network of over 500 grassroots community organizations representing across all of Ontario, are working to Protect Public Medicare for all.

Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) aims to involve more people in making Public Health policy decisions. Involving more of the public to determine important health policy is what OHC believes is needed in order to protect against the threat of cuts that cause patient experiences to worsen due to poor staffing, increased workload, and low wages.

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