Kelly Grant’s superb Globe and Mail article on ER crowding clearly made the connection between hospital overcrowding leading to dangerous backlogs in the ER.
When hospitals operate at a comfortable 85% bed occupancy rate, crowding doesn’t exist but is a given when occupancy rates exceed 95%. Most city hospitals in Ontario now function at over 100% bed occupancy rates. One Hamilton hospital recently reported they were trying to function at over 134% bed occupancy.
What is surprising is when presented with this incontrovertible evidence, hospital CEO’s have been writing letters supporting a dogmatic, mythological approach that has allowed crowding to persist for all these many years. To be clear, ER crowding is caused by hospitals who have insufficient beds, not an excessive influx of patients with minor illness.
A hospital executive in Hamilton has been quoted as blaming a “mystery” surge in flu patients when the Public Health Department states there is no flu surge. A Toronto health care exec blames excessive volumes and an outdated department but makes no mention of bed capacity. Yet another states that his ER was designed for complex patients not the walking wounded, even though half the population census of every ER in the world routinely see non-urgent patients..
We will never solve crowding until those who run the system acknowledge that like it or not more bed capacity is needed in hospitals if we are to meet the needs of our citizens.