Hospital staff rally in Ottawa for more beds, end to funding cuts

Hospital staff across the province are calling on the Ontario government to increase funding for hospitals and long-term care facilities and add more permanent beds.

Union says provincial funding for 2,000 beds not enough to make up for decades of cuts

Hundreds of hospital staff rallied at the Montfort Hospital on Friday, calling on the Ontario government to fund and at least 3,000 more permanent hospital beds. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Hospital staff across the province are calling on the Ontario government to increase funding for hospitals and long-term care facilities and add more permanent beds.

Hundreds rallied outside the Montfort Hospital Friday, demanding an end to healthcare cuts and for at least 3,000 permanent hospital beds to be added across the province.

On Monday, Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced a $100 million investment to provide 2,000 beds and spaces to hospitals across the province, along with $40 million for post-hospital care and home care.

Ottawa hospitals are expected to receive funding for 145 beds and the staffing needed to take care of patients filling those beds.

That's not good enough to make up for 20 years of cuts, especially because the funding is only temporary, according to the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The money only covers flu season and will run dry by mid-March 2018, the unions said.

Hospital staff struggling

Having worked as a registered practical nurse at the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre for the last 17 years, Lisa Moylan sees first-hand how cuts have impacted both patients and staff.

We're not sending [patients] home better.- Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions

Staff often miss their breaks or work through lunches because they are helping patients, she said.

"Sometimes it's putting them before us," which she said can take a toll.

"A lot of hospital staff there find themselves sick and run down because there's a lot of extra duties and stuff that have to be done," she said.

"Not only that but there's the workplace violence … that we're all dealing with on a daily basis."

Lisa Moylan says many staff at the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre are run down or get sick because of their added workload. (CBC News)

The union has complained about violence against employees — often coming from patients with conditions like dementia — or violence between patients.

"We're struggling," said Jean-Louis Hébert, who has worked as an orderly at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre for the last decade. Even as the province makes cuts, it can cost more since staff are often forced to work overtime, Hébert said.

Patients suffering

The long hours are also diminishing the quality of care, according to Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

The Ottawa Hospital, Cornwall Hospital and Renfrew Hospital are already operating at 110 per cent capacity, Hurley said. With funding cuts over the past 20 years, he said it's not only difficult to get admitted, but many patients who should stay in the hospital are forced out before they're ready.

"It's hard to get in. If you get in you're likely to be put in a hallway for two, three days — on a stretcher in the hallway. You're going to wait for your procedure. [When] you get your procedure, there's going to be pressure on you to go home," he said.

For someone who's had a stroke, he said they're often being sent home too soon.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, said patients are often sent home before they are well because of a lack of beds. (CBC News)

"We're not sending them home better. We're not sending them home able to talk. We're not sending them home able to walk. We used to do that. We used to repair them."

He said these issues can ripple across to other aspects of health care. If home care is overburdened, the bar for who can receive it is raised too, he said. And even if someone gets home care, he calls it "woefully insufficient," with patients only receiving around two to three hours per week.

Long-term care facilities are almost no better, Hurley said, with workers dealing with many patients who should still be in hospitals.

"We've kind of demonized this whole group, and they're mostly elderly, and said that they're holding down acute care hospital services and they shouldn't be. But the truth is that a lot of them actually have very significant healthcare conditions. They're in very bad shape."