Ontario NDP releases numbers on overcrowding in northern Ontario hospitals

Ontario's New Democratic Party now has solid numbers to back up its claims of unacceptable overcrowding in northern Ontario hospitals.

Statistics show Health Sciences North operated at 100 per cent capacity for two consecutive years

From left: Sudbury NDP candidate Jamie West, NDP health critic and Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas, and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath discuss hospital overcrowding statistics in Sudbury, Ont. (Samantha Samson/CBC News)

The New Democratic Party now has solid numbers to back up its claims of unacceptable overcrowding in northern Ontario hospitals.

On Tuesday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and health critic France Gélinas released internal hospital documents that show Health Sciences North in Sudbury, Ont., has been forced to operate well above safe capacity for 24 consecutive months.

"This is not what people expect in a province like Ontario when they go to a hospital," Horwath told CBC News.

Health Sciences North reaches 111 per cent capacity

Horwath's office obtained the documents under freedom of information laws. They show that between January 2015 and December 2016, Sudbury's hospital operated at 100 per cent capacity every day, at times reaching as high as 111 per cent.

We think it's important for people to understand what the Liberal government has done to our hospital system," Horwath said.

"They've choked the life out it. They've created a system that is not meeting the needs of patients, that's forcing them to be holed up in shower rooms, common spaces and hallways."

Province needs to respond to an 'increase in patient demands'

Health Sciences North recently came forward with similar information on the 2016-17 fiscal year. 

"As the population ages, the demands for acute care are going to continue to go up," David McNeil, HSN's vice president of patient services told CBC News.

"Age is associated with cancer, cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks. We've got a health system that needs to respond to an increase in patient demands."

Liberals respond to NDP claims

CBC News was emailed a statement from Health and Long Term Care Minister Eric Hoskins:

"NDP leader Andrea Horwath continues to mislead Ontarians with selective and inaccurate information about our hospitals. Over the past 2 years, the NDP voted against $14 million in new funds for Health Sciences North, amounting to a total investment of $279 million annually. This year alone, the NDP refused to support more than $30 million in investments for Northern Ontario hospitals as laid out in the 2017 Budget.

The NDP also voted against our OHIP+ plan that would see nearly 25,000 children and youth in the Sudbury area alone have free access to over 4,400 eligible prescription medications.

If NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is serious about investing in health care then she should have supported the 2017 Budget where we increased health-care funding by $11.5 billion over the next 3 years, including a 3.1% overall increase across the hospital sector this year—  greater than the rate of inflation."

System needs to flow

But Ontario's patient ombudsman, Christine Elliot, says overcrowding in hospitals shouldn't be used as a political tool. 

"Typically, what we hear when there's overcrowding in a hospital is we need to put more money into emergency departments," Elliot said. 

"But it's also the fact that there aren't any sufficient long term care beds for people to go to when they leave the hospital. So you end up with this system not being able to flow properly because there's a blockage at the end of it."