Today, SEIU Healthcare and OCHU/CUPE, unions representing 70,000 hospitals workers across Ontario, issued open letters to hospital executives and the provincial government for full transparency and staff support to fix the worsening health human resource crisis leading to widespread hospital emergency room closures and service interruptions.
Staffing levels in Ontario hospitals rank the lowest in the OECD. And what patients are experiencing is the consequence of a dangerous game of managing our public hospitals on a razor’s edge in the name of efficiency. Ontario hospitals are no longer safe places to work, and increasingly unreliable institutions for patients to receive care.
This morning the presidents of SIEU Healthcare and CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions spoke about the crisis at a press conference with two frontline hospital nurses.
“Efforts to quietly manage the health human resource crisis by hospital senior management are failing families and the public deserve to know more about what is leading to closed doors, longer wait times, and service disruption inside Ontario hospitals. That’s why we’re calling for an all-hands-on-deck approach to deal with the dire staffing crisis and growing wave of emergency room closures in Ontario’s hospitals,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare. “Today, nearly 60% of nurses said they feel burnt-out all the time and in need of mental health supports as a result of their job in Ontario hospitals. This is what happens when hospital executives treat staff as a commodity instead of as people and the consequence is today’s wave of hospital ER closures.”
Patients, including frontline staff, deserve to know why poor decision making continues and what is being done to correct the crisis of poor morale, exhaustion, and an over-reliance on part-time employment. We are now at the point where understaffing is chronic and obviously cannot maintain the system the people of Ontario expect.
“We are alarmed that to date we have seen no sense of urgency from the provincial government in the face of the unprecedented threat communities are facing. It is not acceptable that communities like Alexandria and Wingham (and many others) are living this summer without functioning and reliable emergency departments,” said Michael Hurley, president fo OCHU/CUPE. “It is not acceptable that ER waits in major urban centres are skyrocketing or that other vital patient services being closed to sustain emergency operations. We expect a very vigorous response from the provincial government. Without a meaningful action plan, conditions will only deteriorate further.”
An open letter was sent to the Ontario Hospital Association pertaining to the precarity of hospital care and a demand for more information about staffing support and an urgent commitment to a five-point action plan now.
Another letter was sent to Premier Ford offering to commit to work with him on immediate measures to address the staff shortages, including seven specific short-term solutions.