By Steven Smeall
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president Michael Hurley.
CORNWALL, Ontario – Sick and frail Ontarians are being pushed out of hospitals while still ill according to a report released by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) at a media conference Wednesday.
The report, titled “Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home” explains that after 19,000 hospital bed cuts over the past 20 years in Ontario due to many budget cuts, there is relatively no room in hospitals for patients waiting on assessments, restoring, and continuing care.
“It has left us with the fewest hospital beds in any province across Canada,” said OCHU president Michael Hurley.
Approximately 600 patients from over 30 Ontario communities called the OCHU’s 1-800 patient hotline to report on the kind of treatment they received at these hospitals. Ten of those calls came from the Cornwall area.
“For quite a number of people their experience with the acute care hospital system is not a good one,” said Hurley. “We have heard stories of people who have had a stroke and have sat there for three hours without receiving care.”
Only 75 of the calls the hotline received spoke about positive experiences at hospitals in the province.
The most affected age group by these cuts are the elderly, who are frequently turned around when still in need of in-hospital care states the report.
The report claims the elderly are not receiving the timely care that they require as there are no beds available to admit them to the hospital.
“The elderly do not receive the same kind of quality of care like the rest of us do,” said Hurley. “They are much more likely to be ‘short-shifted’ as well as pushed out of the hospital. That’s the way that this system is coping with dramatic cuts to its capacity.
“Families are being harassed with trying to find somewhere for their parent to stay or they will face charges anywhere from $400 to $1,000 a night. There is a lot of pressure to push people out from hospitals.”
Of the 32,000 patients waiting for a bed in long-term care, most are elderly claims the report.
The next step for the OCHU will be to present the report to the Minister of Health, which will happen early April. Until then, the OCHU will be making stops in 60 communities, raising public awareness by presenting these findings. Cornwall was the ninth stop.
“We’re here to call on the government to, first of all, make the kind of significant investments into the home care sector which are needed. Those haven’t been made so far,” said Hurley. “And to stop making cuts to the acute care system. We already have too few beds for the population.”
The report states that over the past two decades the average length of stay in hospitals has dropped 25 per cent (two days) in Ontario.