Every Canadian despairs at the thought of going to the ER. Not only are they sick, anxious and in pain but their misery will be compounded by the entrenched unconscionable wait for care.
The root of the problem lies not with overutilization by patients with minor illness but by the failure to deliver on the promise of healthier Canadians and better home care.
In the mid-1990’s hospital beds were slashed on the false hope that care could be shifted from the expensive hospital bed to the much cheaper and better care provided in a patient’s home environment.
As a result, Canadian hospitals now routinely “function” at greater than 100% bed occupancy rates and admitted ER patients thus cannot be transferred to the wards congesting the ER further. To make matters worse, hospitals routinely have up to 20% of patients who should be at either home or in alternate care facility.
Having drastically cut beds, governments should have made good on the promise of better home care. They didn’t and here we are. Crowded hospitals, dysfunctional ERs and inadequate access to care in the home. Nothing got better; everything got worse.
(My letter to the Globe and Mail – July 13, 2015)