With Ontario hospital staff turnover rates doubling and paramedics struggling due to rapid increase in call volumes, Ottawa area paramedics and hospital staff are warning that the depth of the hospital staffing crisis will worsen and that patient access to care is in peril under the provincial government’s current course.

CUPE will hold a media conference on Tuesday September 13, 2022, at 11 a.m. at Ottawa’s Civic Hospital campus (in front of the emergency department/ambulance bays) to release Ottawa specific data on how many nurses, paramedical, clerical and support staff would need to be hired this year by area hospitals, just to maintain existing patient care and service levels.

Officially the hospital staff turnover rate in Ontario is 14.95%. “This is an unsustainable level of loss of experienced health care workers,” says Dave Verch a registered practical nurse (RPN) and first vice-president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE).

The recent temporary closures at the Montfort and hospitals in Almonte, Perth-Smith’s Falls, Alexandria, Kemptville will “only intensify” under the current health human resource strategy of the PC provincial government, adds Verch. “None of this is normal nor is it acceptable. And with an ageing and growing population here in Ottawa, the province is on a course to cause untold suffering for patients and front-line hospital staff.”

Across Ontario, demand for paramedic services has increased by 40 per cent over the past decade due to pressures of an underfunded health system and an ageing population. In Ottawa, the situation is more stark as in 2022 alone call volumes have risen by 25 per cent without a sufficient increase in staffing levels.

“The province of Ontario must make sufficient investments in paramedic staffing levels and hospital capacity to ensure people get an ambulance when they really need it. The high number of Code Zero incidents over the past several years show a dire need for more resources, as paramedics struggle to keep up with rising demand,” says Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, secretary-treasurer of CUPE 503, which represents approximately 600 paramedics in Ottawa.

In Ontario, CUPE represents 50,000 front-line hospital staff including RPNs, personal support workers, cleaners, porters, and administrative and other workers and more than 6000 paramedics and dispatchers.