Nursing students leave Toronto ER in ‘tough situation’

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An Ontario nurses’ union says it fears the Toronto-area health-care staffing shortage could worsen after a network of hospitals in the city said it would be hiring nursing students and medical residents over the weekend. The emergency department had to be used to backstop.

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University Health Network said Monday that it was in a “very tight staffing situation over the weekend” and that an ER was supported by staff from various units, including medical residents, personal support workers and nursing students.

UHN also said inpatient units expedited discharges and worked to get patients from the ER to the wards faster.

Ontario Nurses Association president Catherine Hoy said it was “surprising” that a Toronto hospital had to call for backups to keep its ER open, noting that recent temporary ER closures have been concentrated in rural areas. are

“It’s a Band-Aid. It tells me this is the tip of the iceberg and we’re in trouble,” Hoey said in an interview Monday.

UHN operates two ERs — at Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals — but did not say which was affected over the weekend.

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The hospital network is understaffed after smaller hospitals in Perth, Alexandria, Clinton, Listowel and Wingham closed their ERs for hours or even days in recent weeks, administrators cited staff shortages.

Hoy said the province is struggling to retain nurses, who he said are burned out after more than two years on the front lines of the pandemic and frustrated by the law in which they The salary is increased by one percent.

She expects the staffing pressure on Toronto’s ERs only to increase in the coming weeks. And those challenges could be exacerbated over the coming long weekend, when ERs typically see an increase in visits.

“(Hospitals) can’t rely on those requests for help because … they’re going to get burned,” he said of the nurses.

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The nurses’ union wants the government to scrap pay cap legislation and fast-track licensing for internationally trained nurses, among other measures.

UHN acknowledged that this weekend’s solutions were short-term fixes. The network said it is focused on “long-term solutions”, including international recruitment and digital health solutions.

Dr. James Miskalk, an emergency physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said UHN’s temporary response appeared to be effective and showed “a certain amount of creativity.”

But, he warned, this is not sustainable and risks taxing other parts of the hospital system.

He said that nurses are experts. And anything “below their expertise” such as students or health care staff from other units can mean that “patients cannot receive care as quickly as they would in the hands of a specialist.” in.”

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The Ontario government has said it is working to address health care workforce capacity, including one-on-one retention bonuses and recruiting nurses to target specific areas of the province. Funds for

Premier Doug Ford also recently said he would take inflation into account during future contract negotiations with the health care sector.

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