Londoner Nicole Dorssers speaks with London Fanshawe MPP and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath about hospital overcrowding, November 13, 2017. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Horwath Takes Aim At Hospital Overcrowding

Nicole Dorssers watched helplessly as her 28-year-old brother went from bad to worse while waiting for a psychiatric bed in one of London’s overcrowded hospitals.

Dorssers’ brother was suffering a serious mental health crisis when he walked into the hospital back in May. He was forced to wait in the emergency room for 16 hours before he was admitted to the hospital. But with no free beds, Dorssers’ brother ended up in a hallway for four days.

“To have to wait and watch him deteriorate after four days in the hallway is devastating to see,” Dorssers told Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who was in London Monday to discuss hospital overcrowding.

“We are not a unique story. I think that is the one thing that left the biggest impact in that we are not special. This is something that happens every day,” said Dorssers.

Through a freedom of information request, Horwath and the New Democrats obtained figures that shows overcrowding at London Health Sciences Centre is getting worse.

“Every single day between May 1 and September 22 of this year the mental health beds were 130% occupancy ,” said Horwath. “Safe occupancy of a hospital ward, any hospital ward, is 85%. 130% is massively overcrowded and this is what Nicole’s brother experienced when he was there.”

At its worse during the five month period, the occupancy for psychiatric services at London hospitals shot up to 165% on August 22, nearly double what is deemed safe. Occupancy rates for surgical or medicine beds was also frequently over 100% capacity over the same time period.

“Regularly this hospital operates over capacity and it is Londoners who feel it. It’s not the administration to blame here and it is certainly not the staff who are trying to do their best, it is the Wynne Liberal government,” said Horwath. “The Conservative government did a lot of damage to hospital when they were in office but the Liberal government has just done more damage. Now we have a system that is falling apart and not meeting the needs of our residents and that is not acceptable.”

Mary Evans and London West MPP Peggy Sattler. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Mary Evans and London West MPP Peggy Sattler. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Horwath was joined by London New Democrat MPPs Teresa Armstrong and Peggy Sattler for Monday’s meeting. In addition to Dorssers’ story, they also heard from Mary Evans. The 85-year-old London woman said she was left in a hospital hallway waiting for an MRI for four days while dealing with the aftermath of a stroke.

“I thought I wasn’t getting good care,” Evans said she thought as she laid on a gurney in the hospital. “We need more hospital beds.”

Evans noted at times she was left with no alternative than to get a bit “feisty” with doctors who tried to discharge her before she had received the required tests.

In a bid to tackle overcrowding, the provincial government announced last month 48 new inpatient beds would be added to LHSC. Ten of the staffed beds would go to University Hospital, 14 would be added at Victoria Hospital, and an additional 24 beds would be placed in the psychiatric ward at Victoria Hospital.

“It’s like a drop in the bucket compared to what’s neccessary,” Horwath said of the additional beds.

She went on to outline how an NDP government would handle the ever growing issue of hospital overcrowding. Those plans include a moratorium on cuts to front line hospital staff and a funding model that takes into account inflation, population growth, and the unique needs of communities.