The Ontario Hospital Association may have made it okay to talk about hospital overcrowding.
As we noted January 27, the OHA has been asking the province to look at capacity planning, noting that only Mexico and Chile have fewer hospital beds per capita than Ontario. It’s fair to question where the province is going on this issue given ongoing funding restraint.
Overcrowding has its consequences.
London Health Sciences Centre’s Dr. Michael John is tasked with infection control for the hospital and believes there is a connection between Ontario’s battles with superbugs and overcrowding.
In the Minister of Health’s own backyard, London’s University and Victoria hospitals have averaged 104 and 102 per cent occupancy from April to December last year according to the London Free Press.
Anything in excess of 100 per cent usually means patients are receiving care in the corridors.
Yesterday Health Minister Deb Matthews announced the first specific initiatives following the release of Dr. Samir Sinha’s summary of recommendations for Ontario’s Senior Strategy.
You may have missed the headlines largely because it mostly attracted a big shrug, aside from our colleagues at SEIU. They issued a news release to praise the offer of additional training for 200 personal support workers (PSWs) to help these workers provide support for seniors with dementia and challenging behaviors. There is no denying it is at least a step in the right direction. Nobody knows exactly how many PSWs there are in the province – estimates range from a low of 60,000 to a high of 100,000. There are said to be 26,000 PSWs working just in the home care sector. When we saw the offer to train 200, our first reaction was to wonder whether some zeros were missing?
The Minister did also make a less specific commitment to improve resident safety, quality of care and abuse prevention through new staff training and development. Let’s hope it’s on a much larger scale than their plan for PSWs.
The announcement also called for a 50 per cent expansion of the number of short-stay beds in long-term care to help transition seniors from hospital. While that may sound very impressive, the actual numbers amount to just 250 more beds, and we’re still waiting to find out whether these are new licensed beds or merely being carved out of the existing stock of about 76,000 long-term care beds in Ontario. Dr. Sinha had suggested to the Toronto Star that the number of nursing home beds needs to triple over the next 20 years. That means Deb Matthews needs to announce something more on the scale of 7,600 new beds per year to make that happen.
Earlier this week we reported Thunder Bay was in a bed crisis and was looking for alternate care for 86 ALC patients. That’s just one hospital out of more than 150 that may be looking for these 250 beds.
There have been fewer than the usual suspects applauding the release of Living Longer, Living Well, Dr. Samir Sinha’s anticipated recommendations for a new seniors strategy for Ontario. In the early days of 2013, maybe nobody is yet paying attention.
Appointed provincial lead last year by Health Minister Deb Matthews, Sinha spent much of 2012 travelling the province and consulting with everyone it seems but organized labour (not that we’re bitter).
Promised for December, the subsequent report did not linger long in the Minister’s office before the highlights were released publicly yesterday. The full report is expected in the next few weeks.
Like last January’s provincial strategic plan, Dr. Sinha’s strategy seems to be long on lofty recommendations and somewhat short on logistics about how this all gets done, especially in an environment of considerable restraint.
Depending on where you sit on the political spectrum, you’ll likely find recommendations you like and recommendations that seem completely off the wall.
Health Minister Deb Matthews says she is not seeking the Ontario Liberal leadership.
Matthews made the formal announcement at the Ontario Hospital Association HealthAchieve this morning, ending weeks of speculation.
Noting how rare it was for a health minister to be addressing her fourth OHA HealthAchieve, Matthews said she wanted to remain on as Health Minister.
Many believed that the entrance of Kathleen Wynne into the leadership contest meant that Deb Matthews would stay out.
She told the half-filled hall that the next step in “Matthews hierarchy of health care needs” is to work on transitions of care so that nobody falls between the cracks.