This past week we learned that 4,352 patients were cared for in the hallways at Brampton Civic Hospital last year.
According to a briefing note revealed by a freedom of information request and presented by the Ontario NDP at Queen’s Park, surge pressures at the Brampton facility have pushed occupancy rates to 114 per cent above capacity.
When a hospital reaches and exceeds its capacity, “Code Gridlock” is declared and the two words go out on pagers and smart phones to physicians, administrators, nurses and support staff, and over the PA system. Code Gridlock was declared eight times for a total of 65 days between January to April 2017. During these times, patients can stay in the emergency department up to four days waiting for a bed.
The emergency department at Brampton Civic was originally built to serve 80,000 visitors annually, but now sees 138,000 every year. This high demand has caused over-crowding and resulted in the opening of unfunded beds, with patients being placed in hallways.
According to the briefing notes released this week, hallway patients “experience excessive noise and reduced privacy, which negatively affects their overall patient experience and quality of care, and may extend their overall length of stay.”
How did it get this way? What happened to our second hospital?
Brampton Civic Hospital opened in 2007, promising to add to the existing capacity of 367 beds at the original Peel Memorial Hospital. However, later that same year, Peel Memorial Hospital was closed, leaving Brampton again with only one facility.
Brampton Civic Hospital currently has 608 beds to service a population of over 600,000 residents, or 1 bed for every 986 people. In neighbouring Mississauga, 721,000 residents have a choice of two full-service hospital facilites and more than 1,200 beds, which works out to 1 bed for every 600 people.
When the new Peel Memorial Centre for Health and Wellness opened earlier this year, the facility promised to relieve the pressure on Brampton Civic Hospital; However, the facility offers no beds, and data indicates that the Urgent Care Centre is already bursting at the seams. Visits to Peel Memorial are projected to exceed 65,000 in its first year, 20,000 more than what it is funded by the Province to handle.
To solve these issues, William Osler is requesting a total of $30.2 million in additional funding from the Province to meet the city’s current needs, and notes that according to a recent third-party study, Brampton will need the addition of approximately 772 inpatient beds over the next 20 years.
On Thursday, Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey released a statement calling on Queen’s Park to take action.
“Our community’s needs are not being met in a timely manner and this will only get worse if nothing changes” she says, in her online statement. “In the short term the Provincial Government needs to immediately approve and start building phase two of the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness. Over the long term it is critical we move forward on a third hospital immediately, as by 2041 we will be a city of nearly one million residents.”
Phase two of Peel Memorial refers to a plan that is expected— but has not yet been announced— to build a full service healthcare facility on the Peel Memorial site that offers a full emergency department and inpatient beds.
Last month, Queen’s Park announced it would fund six additional beds for Brampton Civic Hospital in anticipation of the surge of patients expected during the upcoming flu season.
Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP panned the move. “This crisis in our hospitals is the result of years of cuts, underfunding, and a stunning lack of leadership by this Liberal government and their Conservative predecessors,” said Horwath via a press release. “The Wynne government’s offer of a few temporary beds falls so far short of what is actually needed, it just shows that she doesn’t get it. She has let patients down again and again.”
Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario PC Party also issued a statement. “This government is responsible for Ontario’s hospitals suffering through four years of budget freezes. This government has continued to cut funding, pushing our hospitals to a breaking point. Now over 4,000 hallway patients at the Brampton Civic Hospital are paying the price.”
Bed shortages have been a challenge for GTA hospitals for decades, with capacity at area hospitals lagging severely behind population growth. Recent Statistics Canada Census numbers show that Brampton is the second-fastest growing city in Canada, nearly three times faster than the national average.
Another factor exacerbating the problem is aging demographics, with more people requiring care and putting pressure on the system.
Responding to the opposition parties, Premier Kathleen Wynne defended her government’s track record on healthcare, citing year over year health budget increases, including $1 billion in new funding for hospitals over the past two years. “We are investing an extra $140 million in hospital, home and community sectors to create over 2,000 new beds and spaces; That’s the equivalent of six medium size hospitals.” She explained. “There isn’t a single solution. The solution doesn’t always lie in expansion of beds in hospitals. There are community solutions and other spaces that need to be provided.”
Successive provincial governments of all stripes have contributed to this problem in Brampton, and considering the pace of development of healthcare infrastructure, a gridlock of patients in our hospitals will continue. Unless a significant move is made to address the problem, and quickly, the quality of care for our residents will continue to suffer in the hallways of political inaction.