Overcrowding at Ontario’s hospitals puts patients at risk

 

Many of Ontario’s hospitals were dangerously overcrowded in 2017, leading to conditions that put patient safety at risk and can, in some cases, result in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Last December, leaders from the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) warned in unusually dire terms that the province’s hospitals were “on the brink” of a “crisis,” according to the Toronto Star.

In a prebudget submission to Ontario’s finance committee, the OHA requested a 4.55 per cent funding increase, approximately $815-million, for 2018-19.

“An increase of 4.55 per cent in hospital funding in 2018-19 will ensure that hospitals have the resources needed to avoid a significant capacity crisis in Ontario’s health care system,” reads the document, titled ‘A Sector on the Brink: The Case for a Significant Investment in Ontario’s Hospitals.’

“The sector is heaving under enormous pressure right now,” said OHA president Anthony Hale. “Hospitals really need significant investment next year to maintain access to existing levels of services.”

Approximately half of the province’s 143 hospitals hit 100 per cent occupancy during summer 2017, and some reported 140 per cent occupancy over the course of the year. The international standard for safe occupancy is 85 per cent, the Star reports.

The effects of overcrowding in hospitals are many. The OHA’s prebudget submission lists longer wait times; increased volume in emergency rooms; and run down, past-its-prime equipment. Hospital overcrowding can also put tremendous pressure on staff, force patients to be housed in make-shift facilities like hallways and staff lounges, and increase risk of infection. In other words, overcrowding creates an environment where an error leading to a medical malpractice lawsuit is more likely to occur.

The Government of Ontario has announced several measures intended to ease the overcrowding crisis, including adding 1,200 beds for this year’s flu season; investing $40-million in home care in order to open up hospital beds; and introducing 5,000 new long-term care beds over the next four years. But without additional funding commitments, these actions are unlikely to produce lasting improvements.

Ontario’s population is expected to grow by more than 30 per cent over the next 25 years, during which time the number of seniors in the province is expected to double. By 2041, people aged 65 and over are expected to make up 25 per cent of the population. The coming population boom and overall aging trend will continue to strain hospital capacities unless substantial changes to the healthcare system are made.

If you or someone you love has been injured due to a medical error, contact the Oakville personal injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP to discuss whether you have grounds to initiate a medical malpractice lawsuit.

 

Image credit: Master Sgt. Efrain Gonzalez/U.S. Air Force

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