As the Ontario government works on diverting the constant flow of patients going through the overcrowded healthcare system, physicians are emphasising the point of doing it sooner rather than later.
Alan Drummond, an emergency room physician in Perth, says when a hospital has no capacity to admit new patients, the patients end up waiting up to 36 hours, lingering around until they finally receive the proper care they need.
“These are usually the most vulnerable patients in society. They’re sick, they’re elderly, they’re stuck in an emergency department hallway where they are denied the basic human dignities of care – such as proper privacy, toileting, quiet, and proper nutrition. More than that, they are denied access to timely treatment to care, sometimes lifesaving treatment.” he told The Mike Farwell Show on 570 NEWS.
He says when patients have to wait so long for treatment, there is an increase in the risk of death.
“It’s probably in the neighborhood of five per cent increased risk of death when you present at a crowded time. We also know that you’re denied access to life-saving antibiotics, you have an increased risk of delirium, and your pain is not properly managed. You’re essentially an afterthought in a busy emergency department and this is why it leads to increased risk of medical complications, medical error and death.”
He says since the mid-1990s, the number of beds available has been cut down by 40 per cent, at a time when the population is getting older.
“The Ford government, in their end to hallway medicine, talks about increasing nursing home beds sometime over the next five to 10 years and that’s a good initiative! But the question is, if you know that the department is unsafe, is it really morally justified to wait five to 10 years, knowing that every day patients are being somehow threatened with harm if the emergency department is too congested and too dysfunctional.”