Hospitals: a vital yet dreaded place where people go in seek of dire medical attention. Trust is placed into the hands of health care professionals that work by your side in what could be life-threatening situations. Over the years, changes to the system have put the trust of its patients and professionals on edge.
A lack of staff and resources, cut-backs, scares of privatization and unaffordability are just a few of the concern that continue to grow. Budget-cuts are one of the main reasons sitting at the tip of the problematic iceberg and Ontario has the highest budget cuts in all the nation.
“We’ve lost 2,000 acute beds in our city alone, close to 3,000 mental health beds. The city has almost doubled in size. This is a formula for disaster. We know people are waiting for days in emergency before they can even get admitted to a bed. Without treatment, these people are faced to live a lot of pain and agony to just wait to get in” says Peter Bergmanis, Co-chair of London Health Coalition.
“We on any given day in the city are over 100% capacity in two primary hospitals which we have, and that’s the norm,” Bergmanis explains. Ontario is the most populous province in Canada, yet has the lest number of beds per patients in the entire country.
“The Ontario government made a decision awhile ago to reduce the levels of corporate taxation and to reduce the burden on the wealthiest in Ontario, and as a result, they were left with the problem of not having enough revenue. And they’ve dealt with that by cutting the largest single budget item, which is health care”, says President of Ontario Counsel of Hospital Unions of QP, Michael Hurley.
Efficiency as new workplace motto
Joanne Wilkenson is a Registered Nurse with the London Health Science Centre. She has been working as an RN for 31 years and has witnessed the drastic reduction in quality of care.
“There was a time and place when I could sit down with my patient and find out psychologically how they were doing. Maybe reassure them and then maybe go on to do, I don’t know, wash their hair maybe, put their hair in curlers, trim their fingernails… all of that time I have no more time for. That really takes away from feeling like I’m doing a good job, and now I’m just doing the bare essentials. That’s probably the biggest change – the human aspect which you can make great strides with, because if a patient is having a great day, their length of stay shortens. That’s a guarantee.”
Wilkenson shares that as the quality of her work went down, as did the amount of education and training staff receive. Budget cut-backs meant less hands-on learning and more online testing.
Rising incidents of workplace violence
Consistent police presence, metal detectors and violence risk assessment courses are all the latest and mandatory additions to a hospital environment.
“My minor cases are people who will walk past me and brush shoulder to shoulder with me in an effort to get in their loved one’s room. That has become common place now without apologizing. But the worst case was on Christmas day about 5 years ago, my coworkers in the bay with me was talking to a family member on a phone and I heard her say, “no sir, I really wish you wouldn’t talk to me that way”, “no, I don’t want you to bring a gun into the ICU”, and I said “hang-up the phone, we’re calling the police”. That Christmas day a number of years ago, management was called in to and we had to lock down the ICU, so all of the doors were locked. So that was the beginning of a very different tide of change.”
Increased funding as “absolutely essential”
There is frustration all around from lack of necessary components for the front line workers to complete their work to the best of their abilities, to frustration and dissatisfaction from patients receiving the service.
Though Ontario’s healthcare system has its success stories, the criticism is strong enough that the message is clear. Improvements are essential to be able to continue providing quality medical assistance. MPP Peggy Sattler has been communicating with the public to understand the needs of the public.
“One of the things that that we have called for is a moratorium on any more cuts to front line workers in hospitals until there is a full health human resources study, so that we can understand how many healthcare workers we need, what kind of healthcare workers we need, and where do we need them.”
Increased funding is “not only a possibility, but it is absolutely essential”. Sattler says, “this is why we pay taxes. This is why we support having a government in place. [It is] an obligation of the government to ensure that the healthcare services that are delivered are funded at the level that is required to maintain people’s health.”
As of right now, there is no clear timeline on how long the process will take before citizens can expect to see changes. Individuals are encouraged to continue speaking out for their needs in the meantime.