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Ontario hospital overcrowding worse, but health-care report has some good news

Last Updated Nov 17, 2018 at 2:14 pm EST

Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Ont., is shown on Oct. 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Hospital overcrowding continues to be a problem for Ontario’s health-care system — due to a rise in emergency room visits, the opioid crisis and other issues — according to a new report.

Measuring Up 2018, released by the arms-length agency Health Quality Ontario, has found the backlog is getting worse in parts of the system, including in emergency departments, hospital beds and long-term care.

The report found emergency department visits are on the rise, especially for serious conditions and opioid-related incidents. And patients are spending more time in ERs before being admitted to hospital.

More patients are occupying hospital beds while waiting to receive care elsewhere — the equivalent of more than 10 large, 400-bed hospitals filled to capacity — every day.

“One of the things we’re seeing is hospital overcrowding and how it’s both a symptom and a source of cascading pressures throughout the system,” said Anna Greenberg, interim CEO of Health Quality Ontario.

The report also found patients are waiting longer to access long-term care, assisted living and home care, from both the hospital and the community.

Despite the problems, the report had some good news.

Ontarians are living longer, more people are having surgery within the recommended time, and rates of C. difficile infection in hospitals have declined.

“The improvements we have seen in areas like wait times for cancer-related or general surgeries are a testament to focused and sustained efforts based on meaningful data by those on the frontlines,” Greenberg said.

“With the same system-wide focus that is informed by data, and ingenuity on the frontlines and at regional levels, tackling a complex problem like hospital overcrowding is also possible.”

Read the full report below.