From coast-to-coast emergency rooms are so backlogged that even making use of hallways and corridors for patients’ beds is proving to be inadequate.
A very large percentage of Canadians are unable to find a family doctor.
What is to be done?
If I were the health minister for a day, here are some of the steps I would immediately take to get us back on track:
- Urgent care centres, which provide same day, urgent, non-emergency health care, are great but there are not anywhere close to enough of them. The province needs to immediately open dozens of additional urgent care centres across the province. These centres have proven very successful at removing some pressures from emergency departments.
- We need dramatically more health care delivered in the community. Far too many elderly and infirm patients end up in emergency departments because they have not received the care they need at home. More access to homecare, nursing care, and consultations with physicians today will prevent avoidable hospital admissions later.
- Providing better community support and discharge planning will also mean that people no longer needing hospital care can be released more quickly, freeing up much needed beds to be used for patients who have been stuck in the emergency department, sometimes for days. Quicker discharge will become possible only when the discharge doctor is confident the patient will have access to the necessary health care services, which should include fully subsidized community-based short-term stay facilities for those still needing 24-hour care but no longer needing hospital services.
- It is critical and increasingly urgent to provide better long-term housing options and medical care for seniors. More affordable non-profit supportive housing must become available. Too many frail seniors unable to live alone currently languish in hospital beds with nowhere else to go. Whether in a private residence or in a home, seniors must also have access to healthy food, cleaning services, and immediate medical care.
- We need to dramatically address the shortage of health-care workers in the system. This means increasing the number of seats in all our medical schools, increasing training availability for nurses and nurse practitioners, and hiring more medical support staff. It also means fast-tracking licensing for fully trained medical personnel from other provinces and worldwide. Tuition could be immediately waived, making the education free on condition that the graduates agree to practice in underserviced areas of our province.
It can be argued that some of the current problems have resulted from our medical system having to cope with the unanticipated COVID pandemic. It is equally true that the pandemic exposed long-standing flaws in the system.
Governments are now responding, and some parts of the system are finally beginning to change. But not quickly enough.
The time for urgent action is now.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (May 30, 2023): 424.66ppm
One year ago (May 30, 2022): 421.57ppm
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