The Ontario government has added more than three dozen beds at a Brampton, Ont., hospital in a bid to tackle chronic overcrowding after an exclusive CBC Toronto story revealed that more than 4,300 patients received care in the hospital's hallways last year.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced Thursday he has made 37 more inpatient beds available at Brampton Civic Hospital, including six beds announced last month, and has approved the expansion of Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness Campus.
"These 37 additional beds are going to help reduce wait times in the hospital, helping patients to get faster access to care," Hoskins told reporters, noting they will be available before the holiday season.
The move follows the province's commitment last month of some $100 million to make 2,000 more hospital beds available by the end of the calendar year in communities feeling the crunch from a significant shortage of bed space.
"This is the equivalent of opening up six new community hospitals," said Hoskins.
The minister's announcement comes after the summer brought the longest wait times for emergency care since record keeping began nine years ago.
The Ontario Hospital Association, which represents nearly 145 hospitals throughout the province, warned flu season could generate a "capacity crisis" in the GTA if the government did not respond in time.
Earlier this year, administrators at Brampton Civic Hospital blamed "an exceptionally high number of patients" coming to the hospital for a woman being left in the hallway on a stretcher for five days last March while bleeding internally and in "excruciating pain."
However, a memo provided to CBC Toronto from the Ontario NDP last month revealed the overcrowding was not just a short-term crisis prompted by last winter's bad flu season. A chart in the document shows that during every month of the 2016-17 fiscal year, at least 266 patients were admitted to the hallways, peaking at 420 patients in March.
Brampton Civic's emergency department was built to serve 90,000 patients annually but had 138,000 visits in 2016-17. The memo says the opening in February of an urgent care centre in Brampton at the newly built Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Care and Wellness did not appear to ease the demands.
But Hoskins is optimistic the redevelopment of Peel Memorial Centre will help relieve the burden on other area hospitals. Although it's not a 24-hour facility, he said more inpatient services, such as improved care for patients with "complex continuing care needs" and rehabilitation, will be added.
"We want people to have convenient access to the services they need," said Hoskins.
"It will add well over 100 new beds and an investment from the government of hundreds of millions of dollars."