Toronto General Hospital under ’emergency care alert’, says ICUs at full capacity

A Toronto hospital says it is under a “critical care bed alarm”, with its three intensive care units all at full capacity due to staff shortages.

Toronto General Hospital said in an email Tuesday that the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit have their “total bed capacity” or limited human resources to keep all their physical intensive care beds open safely. and in operation.

“Due to multiple factors, including issues caused by the ongoing pandemic, we are experiencing a staff shortage that requires this action,” Gillian Howard, spokesperson for University Health Network, which includes Toronto General Hospital, said in the email.

Howard said that when the hospital is under an intensive care bed warning, it will triage patients who need specialized work in intensive care and work together to ensure patients receive the proper care they need.

The three intensive care units treat “different patient populations” in need of intensive care, Howard said.

The warning comes after about 25 Ontario hospitals were forced to downsize parts of their facilities over the long weekend due to staff shortages, according to the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA).

ONA President Cathryn Hoy said on Monday that hospitals should close wards, reduce the number of beds or divert patients to other locations on weekends. She called the situation a “disaster” and warned that staff shortages at hospitals across the province will only worsen over the weekend.

“This living has to stop now. It really is. And nurses walk away every day,” Hoy said. “And if this continues and there is no ray of sunshine or hope from the government, it will only get worse.”

Ontario’s health minister Sylvia Jones says the provincial government is exploring how more internationally trained nurses can work in the province to reduce staff shortages. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

The warning also comes amid a growing chorus of opposition MPPs calling on Ontario’s health minister Sylvia Jones to provide tangible solutions to what they believe is a crisis facing the province’s health care system.

Province working on solving problem, says minister

Jones told The Canadian Press on Tuesday that the provincial government is investigating how more internationally trained nurses can work in the province to reduce staff shortages.

Jones said her role in recent weeks has been to meet with industry organizations and individuals who have solutions and listen to their feedback.

The health minister said the work includes what the government has already done over the past four years, including increasing the number of workers in the system – she cites more than 10,000 added since the start of the pandemic.

She said the government will introduce “additional measures” to increase capacity, and specifically mentioned a backlog of internationally trained health professionals awaiting certification.

CBC Toronto had repeatedly approached Jones for an interview about staff shortages in Ontario hospitals. The requests were all rejected.

Another aerial drone photo of Toronto General Hospital, taken on December 15, 2020. (Sue Reid/CBC)

NDP Health critic France Gélinas said in a press release on Tuesday that Jones is not listening to patients and frontline health professionals.

“If Jones doesn’t find this mess unacceptable, how ill-willed is she to let our health care system collapse?” asked Gelinas. “Severely ill patients are being moved. Long waiting times and medicines in the hallway are rampant. And some people rush to the emergency room to see the doors locked.”

The NDP, health care unions and frontline health workers have called on the government to repeal legislation known as Bill 124 limiting annual salary increases for nurses.

The Protection of a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, which came into effect in 2019, limits wage increases for provincial workers, including nurses, to one percent per year, which is below inflation.

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