Toronto Western Hospital’s ER was at risk of shutting down this weekend

A downtown hospital was able to secure enough last-minute workers for its emergency room this weekend after being at risk of shutting down amid a staff shortage.

University Health Network (UHN) issued a memo to medical staff this week saying it was experiencing a “severe shortage” of staff at Toronto Western Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED).

The network said it was in “urgent need” of “volunteers” to fill nursing shifts from Friday to Sunday.

“We will not be able to safely operate the TWH ED if we are unable to fill nursing shifts this weekend,” UHN staff wrote in the memo obtained by CP24.

“I am aware it is an extra burden to ask for volunteers once again from our health professions including physicians, to take team-extender shifts. In the last wave of Covid our physicians, residents and fellows stepped up several times to do so.”

UHN added that remuneration would be $50 per hour.

Saturday morning, UHN confirmed to CP24 that they were able to find workers for this weekend and that the emergency department is “now covered.”

Paramedics stand by their ambulances at Toronto Western Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

“UHN, like many hospitals, was in a very tight situation for staffing over the weekend because of significantly higher numbers of patients presenting to the ED, sicker patients, staffing shortages, staff illness and well-deserved and needed vacation scheduling,” UHN Spokesperson Gillian Howard said in a statement.

Howard added that units across the organization were able to take admitted patients from EDs “as quickly as possible,” which helped ease pressure on emergency rooms.

UHN consists of the Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and The Michener Institute of Education.

READ MORE: The future of COVID in Canada: Doctors weigh in on vaccines, masking

GTA hospitals have faced staff shortages in prior waves of the pandemic, with the overall hospital system being overwhelmed due to an influx of infected patients and worker burnout.

As Ontario is in a seventh wave of the pandemic, Howard says hospitals continue to face similar hurdles.

“This wave of the pandemic is affecting staffing in all healthcare organizations. Healthcare professionals continue to rise to the challenge but it has been a very long and hard grind and people are tired,” she said.

“These solutions are short-term and we are focused on longer-term solutions, including international recruitment, training and deployment of clinical supports, digital health solutions to name a few.”


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