Hamilton hospitals struggling with severe staffing shortages, high wait times

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Officials are asking people to avoid unnecessary site visits and to practice patience when seeking care. Photo credit: Facebook/Hamilton Health Sciences


Service impacts and increasingly high wait times are likely to remain an “ongoing reality” at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) sites for the foreseeable future, as the hospital systems face record-high staff and physician shortages and another wave of COVID-19. 

According to hospital officials, despite “aggressive recruitment efforts” by both HHS and SJHH, there are currently 675 job vacancies between Hamilton’s two hospital organizations. In addition, the lack of base-level staff is being exacerbated by higher-than-usual sick absences and COVID-related self-isolation requirements. 

“These pressures,” per a media release sent out jointly by HHS and SJHH Thursday, “along with high demand for services, are affecting all areas of hospital operations and threatening service continuity, including in community programs, inpatient and outpatient care, mental health, pediatrics, and regional programs.” 

“Every day, we’re caring for more patients than our staff have the capacity to care for,” said Sharon Pierson, executive vice president of clinical operations and chief operating officer at HHS. 

“Hamilton’s health-care system, like all hospitals in the province, is in a very precarious position. Our ability to push onward is made possible by our people’s valiant commitment to our patients, and for their sake we’re doing all we can do to bring some relief to our highly pressured situation.”

The two organizations continue to prioritize emergent and regional services and are working closely with neighbouring health units and the province to mitigate access and impact to hospital services. 

Officials are reminding people that the emergency department is designed for patients experiencing a medical emergency. Less severe ailments and injuries should be tended to by a family physician, nurse practitioner, walk-in clinic, or urgent care facility. 

Residents can help alleviate some of the burden on staff by avoiding hospital sites unless it is absolutely necessary to seek emergent or serious care. 

“Our healthcare workers have shouldered an enormous load through the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to do so,” said Melissa Farrell, president of SJHH. “We are profoundly grateful and recognize a need to align service capacity to staffing levels where possible to support quality patient care and the wellness of our healthcare workers.”

“This is a complicated process for everyone and will mean temporary service and procedure reductions as required.”


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