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Hamilton Health Sciences reports dire capacity issues

The extra healthcare cash promised by Ottawa can’t come soon enough for Ontario Hospitals. Hamilton Health Sciences has released a report that outlines a perfect storm of conditions that are affecting its ability to provide services to the public.

HHS says sicker patients, with more complex health issues, combined with ongoing workforce and capacity pressures, are resulting in longer wait times for care and limiting HHS’s ability to return surgical activity to pre-COVID levels (currently at 85-90%). It also means HHS routinely needs to operate unfunded beds.

Factors affecting capacity to care for patients:

HHS adult acute sites continue to operate at extremely high volumes in excess of 100% capacity. The accepted standard is 85-90%.

104% – Hamilton General Hospital

113% – Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre

145% – West Lincoln Memorial Hospital

270 of HHS’s beds are being taken up by what are termed alternative level of care patients. These are patients who should be in long term care facilities but for lack of space are forced to stay in hospital.The alternative level of care (ALC) rate across HHS is the highest in seven years, trending at and above 20%. As of today, there are over 270 ALC patients at HHS. Home and community agencies also continue face health human resource challenges and demand for post-acute beds including long-term beds exceeds supply.

Staff and physician shortages continue at HHS and across the healthcare sector. Surgery and appointment deferrals/postponements have been necessary in some programs where staffing levels are not sufficient to meet patient volumes.

Patients seeking care in the emergency department are sicker and many require admission to the hospital.

As a regional centre for specialized care, such as cardiac, stroke and trauma care, HHS cares for some of the sickest patients in the province.

ICU occupancy has increased rapidly this month. At the Hamilton General Hospital specifically, ICU occupancy increased from 92% on February 1 to 110% on February 8.

The hospital is taking a number of proactive measures to try to deal with the emergency, but staff shortages continue to be a challenge.

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