Coalition says Waterloo region had more hospital beds in the 1960s than today

The Waterloo Region Health Coalition is calling on the province to address staffing shortages in hospitals, while pointing to a decrease in available hospital beds as the population grows.

During an online town hall meeting Wednesday night, the coalition, joined by the Ontario Health Coalition and the Ontario Nurses Association (OAN), said there aren’t enough hospital beds, and in fact, there are fewer now than there were in the 1960s .

According to the coalition there were 937 hospital beds in Waterloo region in 1961.

“They serviced a population of just 172,777 people. In 2020, get this, we have 20 fewer beds – 917 beds. Our population is 620,000 people,” said Jim Stewart of the Waterloo Region Health Coalition.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital says in 1962 it had 266 beds. Today there are 178.

It’s a different story at Grand River Hospital though, where there are 127 more beds than in the 1960s.

But the hospitals say looking at the number of beds from 60 years ago is not a true comparison, as people stayed in hospital longer back then due to the types of surgeries and treatments available.

Earlier this year, the Ontario government announced it aims to add thousands of health care workers and to free up hospital beds.

One of the ways was passing a bill that allows hospitals to discharge patients awaiting long-term care to homes not of their choosing. Patients who refuse face a $400 per day charge.

But the coalition says more is still needed to address what they’re calling “a crisis.”

NURSING VACANCIES IN THE HUNDREDS

According to the ONA, there are more than 140 Registered Nurse (RN) vacancies in the Kitchener and Waterloo area right now.

“In the Kitchener Waterloo area, we’ve had a workload for nurses at the highest level it’s ever been due to the staffing shortages,” said Angela Preocanin, first vice-president of the ONA. “There are over 140 vacancies for RNs, and the working conditions make it impossible to fill them. We are hearing that some postings get taken down with zero applicants. This is just not sustainable.”

Earlier this month, the ONA said the staffing problems have been getting worse as the vacancy numbers increase.

It is estimated there are over 400 nursing vacancies across Waterloo region and Brant County – with the Brant Community Healthcare System recently noting there were 271 job vacancies, of which 178 were for nurses.

PRIVITIZATION CONCERNS ADDRESSED

Organizers also raised concerns about the potential privatization of some hospital services.

The call, made during one of a series of town halls across Ontario, comes a couple of months after Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the government was exploring “innovation and opportunities” for healthcare system changes, but did not specify what those would be.

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