Ongoing healthcare struggles spread beyond hospital walls
There are ongoing struggles in Ontario's healthcare system, emergency rooms are closed or operating on reduced hours, staffing shortages are constant, and the issues spread far beyond the major hospitals.
Experts say there is no sign of this issue getting any better anytime soon and the problem spans the entire healthcare system. The struggles to find care at any level are snowballing into the growing wait times at emergency rooms across the country.
"The stress is everywhere and unfortunately it hasn't gotten any better, in fact, we haven’t even seen it stop getting worse," said Dr. Atul Kapur, an emergency physician.
However, the issues aren't limited to the hospital walls, finding a family doctor might be considered winning the lottery.
"I was told that the average wait time for these clinics is about a year," Ottawa resident James Homuth said.
It is not a new problem -- but one that is compounding the larger issue, sending more people to the ER without the staff to keep up.
"I'm a little concerned but I do have the advantage of being rostered with Apple Tree. While I don't have a family doctor per se, I do have a slot there if I absolutely need to see someone, so that keeps me out of the emergency room, but it's not what I would prefer," Homuth said.
Family physicians say it all comes down to the same issue.
"We need to respect nurses, we need to pay them adequately, give them the benefits they deserve, we have to have more family doctors," Ottawa family physician Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth said. "We're reactive rather than proactive, that's why we're in this healthcare crisis."
That crisis is leaving some emergency rooms throughout the province closed at times. Last weekend the Montford Hospital closed its ER overnight, and the Glengarry Memorial Hospital is closed overnights on weekends until Aug. 22 due to a staffing shortage.
"Every hospital is feeling the strain, even the ones who haven’t had to close is feeling the strain of staffing shortages," said Dr. Kapur.
Premier Doug Ford said everything is on the table when it comes to solutions, even when pressed about his stance on privatization.
"It's abhorrent for Doug Ford or any premier to talk about putting privatization on the table or referring to it as some type of creative solution," said Dr. Kaplan-Myrth.
While experts admit there is no simple solution, many believe there is a clear first step.
"Stop the loss of staff we've seen, that involves improving their working conditions. Bill 124 is an important sign of respect, or disrespect towards healthcare staff," said Dr. Kapur.