Overcrowding in Ontario’s hospitals is a serious – and growing – problem

After a recent visit to a hospital in Sudbury, France Gelinas, Health Critic for the provincial NDP, filed a Freedom of Information request to better understand a critical issue to Ontario’s healthcare system: hospital overcrowding.

“I knew it was bad,” Gelinas told the CBC. “I knew our hospitals were overcrowded, but I never thought it was that bad.”

In order for a hospital to provide reliable, quality care to its patients, it should not pass approximately 85 per cent occupancy. But according to the documents Gelinas received, the majority of Ontario’s hospitals operate at between 94 and 99 per cent capacity. These circumstances make it difficult for physicians and nurses to provide an appropriate quality of care, which can in some cases lead to injury. If you have been injured as a result of hospital negligence, contact a Will Davidson LLP hospital error lawyer today.

Hospital discharge

Discharge delays, according to a September 2016 article in Hospital News, are a major factor contributing to hospital overcrowding.  In May of this year, approximately 15 per cent of acute care hospital beds in Ontario were occupied by patients awaiting discharge to either long-term care or home care settings. As a result, new acute care patients are sometimes forced to occupy beds in hallways or make-shift rooms created with partitions, a scenario that sometimes produces the need for a hospital error lawyer.

“It doesn’t matter how hard they work, [staff] can not provide quality care, hallway nursing will never be quality care no matter how hard this nurse works,” Gelinas said, per the CBC. “[They] can not provide quality care in a hallway, [or] in a broom closet.”

Canada’s rapidly aging population is partly to blame for this problem: in the past seven years, Ontario hospitals have seen a 13.4 per cent increase in emergency room visits, fueled by a 29.1 per cent increase in visits by people aged 65 and older.

“Inevitably as we get older we have more health problems, for the most part,” Dr. Joshua Tepper, president and CEO of Health Quality Ontario, told the CBC in a separate report. “And therefore with a growing older population, we will see a higher level of illness with time, and especially with more chronic diseases.”

Increased funding for all aspects of Ontario’s healthcare system will be necessary for protecting hospital patients. In particular, long-term care and home care must receive renewed attention. Expanding the capacity of these systems and streamlining the process of discharging patients from acute care could relieve substantial pressure from Ontario’s hospitals.

We can help – contact a Will Davidson LLP Hospital Error Lawyer today

If you or a member of your family has suffered an injury as a result of hospital overcrowding, contact a hospital error lawyer at Will Davidson LLP to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. Hospitals in Ontario have a duty to provide attentive, high-quality care to their patients, and this care can be jeopardized in over-crowded hospitals with over-worked staff. At Will Davidson LLP, we will fight for the compensation you deserve as you work to recover from your injuries.

Should dementia patients be prescribed antipsychotic medications?

As the Canadian and global populations grow older, healthcare workers are eagerly seeking solutions to prevalent age-related health problems. Chief among those is dementia, a disease which affects millions of people around the world, and which today remains incurable.

Scientists do not fully understand what causes dementia, which makes it a frustrating and complicated ailment to treat. Many long-term care facilities and other healthcare providers resort to antipsychotic medications to mitigate severe symptoms like aggression, agitation, and hallucinations and delusions. In some cases, this is an entirely appropriate course of action. Antipsychotics were developed to treat people with mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, that produce hallucinations; dementia patients with similar symptoms may benefit from such a treatment.

But using antipsychotics to treat more common dementia symptoms, like aggressive and agitated behaviour, can be dangerous to patients’ health and can lead to serious lasting harm. In some situations, injuries resulting from the use of antipsychotic medications can even lead to a medication error lawsuit. If one of your loved ones has suffered an injury stemming from the use of antipsychotics, contact Will Davidson LLP today to speak with a medication error lawyer.

Dangers of antipsychotics

According to the Alzheimer’s Society in Great Britain, two thirds of prescriptions for antipsychotics are unnecessary or inappropriate. Especially when used for longer than 12 weeks, side effects of antipsychotic use may include: sedation, shakiness and unsteadiness, falls, blood clots, stroke, and the worsening of dementia symptoms.

Prolonged antipsychotic use has also been linked to higher mortality rates for people with dementia living at long-term care facilities.

Many of these side effects, from serious falls to stroke, could be the basis of a medication error lawsuit. Thankfully, some alternatives to antipsychotics exist which pose a less significant risk of injury.

Preventative Medications

Although there is no cure for dementia, some medications can help slow the onset of its symptoms. The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine to ease certain cognitive symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, and issues with thinking and reasoning.

These medications are limited in their effectiveness: as the disease progresses, cognitive symptoms will worsen, regardless of treatment.

Certain alternative treatments, like coconut oil and some fatty acids, have shown some promise in mitigating the symptoms of dementia, but these have not been widely accepted by the medical community, and are not endorsed by regulatory bodies. At very least, these medications seem to pose less threat to patients’ health than antipsychotics, and prescribing them could help healthcare providers avoid a medication error lawsuit.

Lifestyle

Perhaps the most effective approach to delaying the onset of dementia is making healthy lifestyle choices. Maintaining an active social life, engaging in mental and physical exercise, and not smoking have all been linked to better mental health in later life.

We can help

If a member of your family has suffered an injury due to being prescribed antipsychotic medication, you may have grounds for a medication error lawsuit. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today for a no-obligation consultation about the viability of your case.

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