Toronto hospital was at risk of shutting down ER over weekend

Toronto Western Hospital was at risk of closing down their ER this weekend due to staffing shortages. Maleeha Sheikh finds out how they solved the stressful situation and speaks to medical professionals who cry out something needs to change.

By Maleeha Sheikh and News Staff

Toronto Western Hospital’s emergency room almost shut down due to a staffing shortage over the weekend — but able to secure enough last-minute workers to remain open.

Those in the medical profession warn this is going to be happening more often and it’s going to get worse.

“This is no different than what the rural hospitals have been going through, but there are a lot of staff in the GTA hospitals, and for them to call this out it had to be pretty bad,” said Cathryn Hoy, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.

The University Health Network tells CityNews in a statement it was in a very tight situation for staffing over the weekend because of, “significantly higher numbers of patients presenting to the ED, sicker patients, staffing shortages, staff illness and well deserved and needed vacation scheduling.”

“Requests were made of all health disciplines to staff shifts, and TeamUHN responded so that all areas were covered for the weekend,” it added.

Healthcare professionals continue to rise to the challenge but it has been a very long grind and people are tired.

The UHN adds these solutions are short term and it is focused on longer term solutions, including international recruitment, training, and deployment of clinical supports, and digital health solutions.

RELATED: Ontario unions renew calls for action on health staff shortages in light of ER closures

Hoy said the situation will only become more dire, “it’s terrible, it’s worse than ever, I hear they’re retiring, I hear they’re just waiting for their American licenses to come through, I hear they’re quitting, I hear they’re applying for post-graduate programs, they are leaving.”

Toronto emergency physician, Dr. Kashif Pirzada, said working short staffed on a constant basis is taking a toll on those in the medical field.

“More people will leave the field if you keep pushing them harder and harder,” Pirzada said, “I was called into work last week because we were overwhelmed, I stayed up [until] five a.m. seeing patients and I had to work again at nine a.m.”

While he hasn’t had to fill in on a nurse shift in the past year, like medical staff have been asked to do at Toronto Western Hospital this weekend, Pirzada said he can imagine how difficult it would be.

“Can be quite jarring, I haven’t put an IV line in maybe 10… 15 years, not since medical school, you have to train people to do a whole different skill set and a skill set of a nurse is a very difficult job and it’s not something you can just pick up right away,” Pirzada said.

Hoy said if we want to see a change, Bill 124 needs to be abolished, which generally limits annual salary increases to one per cent for many public sector workers, including nurses.

“We need to get the international trained nurses their license because they are registered nurses in their home countries and they deserve to be working as nurses in Ontario. We need to get the retired nurses to come back and work some at the bedside some to support the new hires,” Hoy said.

Hoy adds the province needs to work on retaining and recruiting more nurses and finding ways to keep in their existing jobs.


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