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Ontario needs 60K more staff and 8K more beds to address 'hospital crisis,' union says


The union representing 40,000 hospital workers in Ontario says the “hospital crisis” will only get worse, unless the province adds thousands more hospital beds and staff over the next four years on top of what is currently planned.

On Thursday morning, Michael Hurley, the president of Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), and Doug Allan, CUPE’s hospital sector research, presented the findings of a report called “The Hospital Crisis: No Capacity, No Plan, No End.”

In their latest available data, the union estimates Ontario needs to boost bed capacity and staffing levels by 22 per cent over the next four years in order to adequately care for the province’s aging and growing population. This means about 8,170 more hospital beds need to be added and 60,000 more staff need to be hired, according to the union.

For Toronto alone, the union says about 2,270 hospital beds should be added and about 11,960 more hospital workers need to be brought on.

“We have people pushed out of hospital while they’re still acutely ill, we have people who can’t get into hospital, we have people dying on waiting lists, we have emergency departments going down,” Hurley said at a news conference at Queens Park.

“Staff in Ontario hospitals are cracking under the weight of this tsunami of an aging and growing population, and when you layer on top of that factors like, COVID, RSV, flu, then, you know, you have a system which had no excess capacity to begin with, stretched to the breaking point.”

The union notes that, compared to other provinces, hospitals have 18 per cent more staff per capita than those in Ontario. The staffing deficit has hit the whole sector, Allan noted Thursday, with support services, intensive care, operating rooms and emergency rooms seeing fewer staff.

In total, Allan says “we’re missing 33,778 full time equivalent staff compared to the other provinces.”

The report, citing Statistics Canada data, also pointed to the increase of hospital job vacancies, noting over the last year that number has jumped by 19.3 per cent, or 4,015 jobs. As of Oct. 1, 2022, the report noted registered practical nurses had a vacancy rate of 11.89 per cent, which is up by 4.71 per cent from when the Doug Ford government was elected.


Allan said the results of the shortage is “very significant closures of ERs,” adding it’s particularly affecting small and rural towns in the province.

As noted in the Financial Accountability Office (FAO)’s report, released in March, Ontario saw 145 unplanned emergency department closures last year due to staffing shortages and higher-than-usual capacity.

“These closures continue, and it’s more in 2023, Carleton Place, Hawkesbury, Walkerton, Arnprior, Listowel, St. Mary’s, Quinton, Durham, Almonte, Seaforth, Mount Forest, Chesley so far this year, and of course, we’ve had the permanent closure of the Minden emergency room, very troubling prospect for the future of rural Ontario,” Allan said.

Additionally, the report notes the number of patients being cared for in hallways has now hit “an all-time high.” According to the union’s findings, 1,289 inpatients are cared for in hallways per day, which is 22 per cent higher since 2018.

There are also fewer surgeries being performed as a result. Citing the FAO’s report, 107,000 patients are waiting “longer than the maximum clinical guidelines for their surgeries,” and 4,523 fewer surgeries are conducted per month than in 2019.

“The numbers in this report are staggering,” Ontario Greens leader Mike Schreiner said in a news release, in light of the report’s findings. “It’s an extra year spent on a never-ending waitlist. It’s being forced to drive two or three towns over for emergency care because your ER is closed.”

In July, the Ford government announced it is funding an additional $44 million in an effort to reduce ER wait times and expand the fund to include smaller hospitals that have fewer than 30,000 ER visits per year.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones said then it will support up to 90 more hospitals across the province, “allowing them to further address staffing challenges and mitigate closures.”

“Our government is expanding capacity across the province, getting shovels in the ground for nearly 60 hospital developments over 10 years that will add thousands of beds across the province, to connect Ontarians to the care they need now and into the future,” Hannah Jensen, spokesperson for the minister of health, told CTV News Toronto in a statement, adding these developments include Hamilton, Sudbury and Windsor.

“Since 2018 our government has increased the health care budget by over $16 billion dollars, grown our health care workforce by over 63,000 nurses and 8,000 new physicians and built 3,500 hospital beds across the province.”

However, OCHU/CUPE says the government’s plan to add 3,000 new hospital beds over the next decade is not enough, adding it would only cover a 0.79 per cent yearly increase in capacity despite projections that the province’s population would grow 1.5 per cent annually over the next decade.

“We’re calling on the Ontario government to make these investments. Otherwise, the crisis in hospitals will worsen as we go forward in time,” Hurley said. 

With files from Katherine DeClerq and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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