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'Perfect storm' has Perth, Ont. hospital without enough ER beds for patient volumes


A post-holiday surge has the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital seeing more patients than it has beds for at its two emergency departments.

The hospital's president and CEO Michael Cohen said an increase in admissions is linked to people seeking medical attention through the emergency department while having limited capacity due to patients needing alternate level of care in hospital beds.

Hospitals across the province have been experiencing higher than usual wait times as ER's see higher admissions because of increased transmission of COVID-19 and respiratory illnesses in the community.

"It really is a perfect storm," Cohen said.

"Patients can expect to wait longer than usual."

It's the latest example of the strain on hospitals and health care workers on the front line.

"We now have permanent hallway beds in our emergency department," said Dr. Alan Drummond, an emergency physician at the Perth hospital.

"Beds in the hallway where we are expected to examine patients with fairly limited access to privacy and certainly no dignity – this is the situation we are in and it is quite inacceptable."

According to a new Nanos poll, 43 per cent of hospital workers in Ontario said they considered leaving their jobs and 41 per cent dread going to work.

Healthcare unions say the pandemic has only made retention and recruiting worse and staffing shortages have contributed to several hospitals temporarily closing emergency departments.

"We're calling on the Ontario government to invest $1.25 billion per year for the next four years on top of inflation to start dealing with some of these issues. Our healthcare system in Ontario has been underfunded for decades," said Dave Verch, the vice president of CUPE's Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care says over that last year, Ontario has added 15,000 new nurses and 2,400 new physicians to the healthcare workforce

"Our government has made changes to break down barriers for internationally and interprovincial educated health care workers and launched the largest medical school expansion in over 15 years," the statement said in part.

Drummond says workers are tired and frustrated.

"We signed up for this so we'll continue to do our best, but we really do feel badly for the patients there's no doubt about that," he said. Top Stories

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