‘It’s not sustainable’: Hospitals in Northeastern Ontario at or over capacity


Anecdotal evidence has suggested the four major hospitals in northeastern Ontario have been stretched. Long wait times and patients in ‘non conventional spaces’ all demonstrate this.

CBC News compiled capacity statistics provided by Health Sciences North, Timmins and District Hospital, North Bay Regional Health Centre and the Sault Area Hospital.

The data suggests the system is beyond capacity.

Sudbury: A problem since the ‘one site hospital’ opened

Health Sciences North is the one site hospital that came out of cuts in the 1990s. The original project went over budget and resulted in a downsizing of the final hospital, according to HSN CEO Dominic Giroux.

The one site Health Sciences North was supposed to have 86 more beds, but due to cost overruns, the project was scaled down resulting in regular capacity issues for over a decade. (supplied)

« The working assumption was that there would be zero alternate level of care patients at HSN, » he said. « Well today we have 86 ALC patients in the exact same number. So if that reduction of 86 beds had not been done in 2003 we would not be having capacity issues today. »

Giroux says the mistakes of the past are why he is pushing for forward looking planning including a new capital plan, a strategic plan and working with the Ford government to end hall way health care.

« We want to create more bed spaces, » Giroux says. « We want to create more space for mental health and addictions, we want to create more space to allow for more programming for kids and youth to be delivered here in the region. »

Despite the chronic capacity challenges, and recent budget cuts which led to staff reductions, Giroux says Health Sciences North is still a high performing hospital.

Since November 2017, additional government funding has allowed HSN to open 18 more beds, which has helped relieve capacity loads, says Giroux.

Timmins: Socio-economic pressures adding to the problem

« Understandably when we’re not having turnover in our acute care inpatient units we can’t pull up patients from the E.R. into those beds and we have to house them in our E.R., » said Wait Time Coordinator Tiina Guillemette​.

Officials acknowledge socioeconomic realities further exacerbate the problems in the health care system.

« Some people simply cannot afford to go to a retirement home setting, » said Guillemette. « Long term care is the only option available to them. »

When long term care is not available, patients stay in hospital.

Recent funding for additional beds by the North East Local Health Integration Network which is confirmed through to the end of March, has taken the pressure off a bit, say hospital staff. 

« When we had our 16 admitted patients waiting for beds we were able to expedite some discharges. Had we not had the 12 beds it would have been a disaster, » said Dr. Harry Voogjarv, Chief of Staff. « Our emergency department would be stuck seeing one or two people at a time as opposed to being able to assess their usual 20 people at a time. »

TADH managed to spread the funding for 10 acute care beds to create a total of 12 ALC beds by using an alternative care model similar to that found in a long term care home. 

« We have been asked to provide numbers around additional bed capacity and and we certainly shared in addition to the twelve beds that we currently have in place throughout the hospital we have the capacity for another 20, » said Joan Ludwig, VP Clinical, Chief Nursing Executive, Timmins and District Hospital.

Staff say it’s this kind of solution-oriented thinking that can bridge the gap in Ontario’s health care system.

North Bay: ‘Patient flow crisis’ since summer 2017

Staff at North Bay Regional Health Centre say the closure of the 66-bed Lady Isabelle Nursing Home has caused a ‘patient flow crisis’ since the summer of 2017. 

Spokesperson Kimberley McElroy says capacity issues have persisted since then and acknowledged the precariousness of the situation ahead of possible impacts by this year’s flu season. 

« The ideal occupancy for acute to maintain optimal patient flow is 80-85%, » McElroy said. Despite that, most hospitals in the region examine capacity based on 100% use.

Sault Ste Marie: Recent surge funding has helped

« We have been struggling with capacity for some time for sure we would be probably quite similar in our pattern with other community hospitals in Ontario, » says Ila Watson, Sault Area Hospital Interim President and CEO.

On Friday, Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano announced funding to support an additional 10 new surge beds for the Sault Area Hospital. 

Watson says bridge funding like this is critical to relieving pressures on the hospital system in the short term. 

« So those types of investments and commitment are enabling us to be more plentiful and ensuring that we’re able to open beds that are appropriate for the medical patients that we are getting rather than having people stay as admitted patients in an emergency department, » she says. 

The Sault Area Hospital has recently converted several areas in the hospital to have overflow beds. While not traditional clinical spaces, Watson says the hospital needs to be creative to address the challenge.

« If we change nothing our costs increase at rates greater than our funding has been increased and that has been a continual pattern. We’ve done a lot of things to create efficiencies and some of the lower hanging fruit is now gone. One of the most significant recent pieces of work that our organization has done is focus on senior friendly care. »

That senior focus, Watson says, is just as important as adding long term care capacity.

« We have also made some significant strides in the way in which we care for the elderly, » she said. « People who might otherwise in years past been destined to either stay in hospital or to move to a long term care facility are now managed in different ways that focus on bringing them back to the state that they were before they came into hospital. »


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Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, says Goodale


Law enforcement officials in Canada and beyond will be working to learn lessons about how to best respond to bomb threats after a rash of such incidents this week, the federal public safety minister said Friday.

Ralph Goodale said policing and security experts around the world will be scrutinizing the fallout from the wave of threats, which triggered varying responses from forces in Canada and the United States on Thursday.

The idle threats, delivered via email, touched off everything from quiet divisional-level investigations to full-scale evacuations of public buildings and deployments of specialized explosives investigators.

Police forces said probes into bomb threats are particularly time-consuming and resource-intensive, and Goodale said experts around the world would be looking for ways to limit the toll on those on the front lines.

« The level of international collaboration here is very high — police, security, intelligence across three continents making sure that we examine an incident like this and learn every conceivable lesson from that experience, including response capacity, » Goodale said at an appearance in Toronto. « We will go to school on all of that. »

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats, which American investigators declared a hoax, swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

Police departments in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa and Winnipeg, as well as Ontario’s provincial force and RCMP detachments in B.C. and Manitoba, investigated multiple threats that all proved groundless.

One busy subway station in downtown Toronto was briefly evacuated as part of the investigation from city police, who said they received at least 10 false calls throughout the day.

In the U.S., hundreds of schools, businesses and government buildings received emails that triggered searches, evacuations and fear. Investigators, however, dismissed the threats as a crude extortion attempt intended to cause disruption and compel recipients into sending money.

Public safety

Some of the emails had the subject line « Think Twice. » They were sent from a spoofed email address. The sender claimed to have had an associate plant a small bomb in the recipient’s building and that the only way to stop him from setting it off was by making an online payment of $20,000 in Bitcoin currency.

Goodale said experts in three continents have already begun analyzing Thursday’s threats for potential lessons.

For several Canadian police forces, the day’s events highlighted the difficulty of balancing public safety with limited internal resources.

Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne of the Ontario Provincial Police said officers were called to at least 15 cites that fall under its jurisdiction, adding all calls followed the same pattern as the threats detailed by U.S. authorities.

‘We can’t gamble with public safety’

She said protocols dictate that a member of a local explosives disposal unit attends any bomb threat from the outset, adding police from local detachments are on hand as well.

Dionne concedes that such an approach is resource-intensive and makes it challenging to react to genuine police calls, likening the response to one reserved for swatting calls where false emergencies are phoned into local officials.

In both cases, however, Dionne said the public safety risk merits the strong response.

« We can’t gamble with public safety, so we really need to investigate to the fullest,’she said. « That means using all of our resources available to us. »

‘It’s wasteful for resources’

The RCMP echoed the need to take all threats seriously while focusing on equipping the public to cope with the situation.

« In the case of threats, scams or frauds, the RCMP uses awareness and education to warn members of the public and to provide them with instructions on how to handle the situation, » the force said.

Alok Mukherjee, former chair of the Toronto Police Service Board, said the issue of threat response is a sensitive one that can be difficult to navigate. Regardless of which approach a force may opt for, he said every agency grapples with the same core struggle.

« These are difficult situations requiring police agencies to assess and decide on appropriate public communication balancing the need to inform against the need to avoid causing undue alarm, » he said.

The balancing act is on display in both Toronto and Montreal, where forces tend to deploy officers to evaluate the threat before enlisting help from more specialized explosives experts.

But Toronto Const. Caroline De Kloet said the response is often shaped by the amount of information received at the beginning of a call, adding it’s necessary to be flexible and react to whatever details are available.

Sometimes time-consuming precautions, such as building or neighbourhood evacuations, wind up being part of the process until the most credible information can be obtained, she said.

Regardless of how widespread the response may be, she said bomb threats are inevitably draining.

« It’s wasteful for resources, absolutely, » she said. « We don’t have numerous teams and they can’t be everywhere at the same time. »


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Federal minister Sohi asks NEB for pipeline inventory in order to find more capacity


Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi told a business audience Friday morning that he has asked the National Energy Board to report back on how much oil is flowing through Canada’s pipelines. He wants to find out if they can handle more capacity.

“That’s a question that I’m raising with the NEB and I’m hoping that they’ll be able to provide me with an answer as quickly as possible,” Sohi later told reporters.

READ MORE: Study says lack of pipeline capacity costing Canada billions in lost revenue

“Is there room for us to ship more oil through pipelines that already exist? And is there a way to optimize that capacity?”

The potential increase in pipeline capacity would coincide with the ability to send more oil by rail. Sohi reported that moving oil by rail has increased this year to where 270,000 barrels per day are being transported. His hope is to gain more capacity through both means.

READ MORE: Alberta to purchase rail cars to move oil without feds: Notley

He made the remarks inside the World Trade Centre to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, while outside on Jasper Avenue, protesters were chanting: “Pipelines now” and “Build that pipe,” as they urged for completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. They were also protesting against Bill C-69, which looks at how projects are regulated.

Sohi said he sympathizes with those who are out of work.

“What I would say to the people out there, showing their support for the energy sector is, we agree with them.

“We share the frustration. I have family members who have been laid off. I have family members who worry for the future. We’re in this together and we will pull together out of this.”

Sohi took pointed questions from the audience, who didn’t agree with the government’s actions that include a tanker ban in Northern B.C. waters, the importation of Saudi oil to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, and the cancellation of the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines. They see over-regulation hampering the industry.

READ MORE: Premier Notley disappointed with Ottawa’s response to Alberta oil bottleneck

Sohi pointed out that the Enbridge Line-3 pipeline will be up and running next year, originating in Hardisty, Alta.

He also said he’s met with more than 40 First Nation leaders, listening to their concerns on the environment. Sohi insists rushing through the process is the mistake that started this mess, and that mistake won’t be made again.

Chamber President Janet Riopel said there is clear frustration that we’re seeing a lot of talk and no action.

“We need to understand keenly why we don’t see more movement in this pipeline construction. I mean Canadians are losing out.”

Sohi told reporters the review of the NEB on the impact of tanker traffic will be concluded by the end of February.

Answers to his question on pipeline capacity he hopes will be back to him as soon as possible.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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With Quinte Humane Society shelter at double capacity, officials call for adoptions – Kingston


Almost everywhere you look in the Quinte Humane Society’s shelter, you’re likely to see a cat.

Executive director Frank Rockett says they’ve gone to extreme lengths to house the felines.

“If there’s a spare corner in the building, it’s got a dog crate in it with a litterbox and bedding and a cat or two in there.”

Humane Society of Kawartha Lakes is full and looking for adopters

The shelter has 187 cats in its care. A number of them are currently in foster homes, but that still leaves close to 150 cats housed in the shelter.

Rockett says they are well above capacity.

“We can hold about 80 cats and about 40 dogs.”

WATCH: Humane Society of Kawartha Lakes is full and looking for adopters

Cold weather is setting in, too, which Rockett says is worrying.

“We need to have cats adopted out of the shelter as quickly as possible to make room for the cats that are going to be outside and feeling that frost and suffering for it,” Rockett said.

The shelter has a waiting list of roughly 200 cats needing housing that the Quinte Humane Society can’t take on until some on site are adopted.

Fewer unwanted cats in Regina

Rockett says another way residents can help is with a financial donation if adoption isn’t an option.

The Humane Society charges an adoption fee but it doesn’t cover the full cost of caring for the animals at the shelter according to Rockett.

“On average, it’s $485 per cat that we take care of, and when we do an adoption, we get $140 back as an adoption fee,” Rockett said. “So there’s always that gap and that’s where the donations come into play.”

That $485 includes costs like spay and neutering, vaccinations, de-worming and de-fleaing the animals.

Rockett says the need for adopting pets and the strain on the Humane Society would be greatly reduced if pet owners spayed and neutered their animals.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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