Ontario ER closure is unprecedented, health minister says

Allison Jones and Noushin Ziafati, Canadian Press

Posted Monday, August 8, 2022 at 4:12 PM EDT

Last Updated Monday, August 8, 2022 4:43 pm EDT

Ontario’s health minister said Monday that six hospitals had to close departments, including emergency rooms, over the weekend, but argued the situation was unprecedented.

Sylvia Jones made the comments as the legislature first sat down after the Progressive Conservatives’ re-election in June, saying individual hospitals work with Ontario Health to try to reassign staff and avoid those closures when they’re coming, but it happens. “occasionally”. .”

He disagreed with a reporter who characterized the closures as “unprecedented.”

“No, sorry, it’s not,” Jones said. “So when there are ebbs and flows of a high incidence of people taking vacations, appropriately, then we need to make sure we have the systems in place.”

Jones said the situation facing Ontario is not unique. Jurisdictions across the country have reported similar problems and staff closures.

In Ontario, two Ottawa-area hospitals and one in Gray County are among those that closed their emergency departments for periods of time over the weekend.

Hospitals redirected patients to nearby emergency departments during temporary closures.

“My message to the people of Ontario is that you have a government that is actively involved and making sure that they have a local hospital that is available, that is well staffed,” Jones said.

The president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association said the organization understands many Ontario hospitals are experiencing “an unprecedented escalation of staffing pressures right now” and is working to develop temporary measures to help maintain services. .

Anthony Dale said in a written statement that OHA is working closely with the provincial government and Ontario Health to implement short-term and long-term solutions to address “urgent” health worker staffing challenges in the province and to ensure that hospitals and other healthcare provider organizations “have as much support as possible during this historic moment.”

“Hospitals are here to serve and will continue to do everything they can to meet the needs of the people of Ontario,” added Dale.

“At this critical time, it is essential that everyone stick together and work to have a ‘Team Ontario’ approach to addressing the very challenging issues facing the health care system.”

Hospitals have said severe staffing shortages, coupled with COVID-19 infections and burnout among healthcare workers are to blame for the temporary closures.

Cathryn Hoy, president of the Ontario Nurses Association, said Jones’s comments suggesting nurses’ vacations are responsible are “disrespectful.”

“That’s an insult to my members, I can’t believe it,” he said in an interview on Monday.

Nurses have taken vacations during the summer in previous years and that has not caused emergency rooms to close, Hoy added.

The ONA and other nursing groups have urged the government to repeal legislation that capped pay increases for public sector workers, including nurses, for three years, saying it would help with recruitment and retention.

Last week, an executive with Ontario Health, which oversees the province’s health system, said Ontario hospitals were experiencing staffing shortages at an “unprecedented” level.

— With files from Liam Casey.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 8, 2022.

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