Doctors worry about overcrowding at Ontario hospitals, including Ottawa Civic and General

Ontario's hospitals are overcrowded and doctors are worried about the risks that poses to patients.

The Ottawa Hospital Civic campus is at 111 per cent capacity, while the general is at 103.

"I think that when you look at the system that has too high an occupancy, there are real risks that you increase the chance of an adverse event for patients," said Dr. James Worthington, a senior vice president at the Ottawa Hospital. "If we just think rationally, if we're trying to do anything and the area is full and you have no space to move things so that you can reasonably manage flow, then I think that people will have to hurry more. There's always chance that there may be slips in care.

He told Rick Gibbons' Homepage the emergency department tends to bear the brunt of the people.

"Where you have admitted patients that wait a rather long length of time to get an in-patient bed," said Worthington. "But there may be patients that wait in other areas of the hospital, maybe after you've had surgery instead of going to a bed on an in-patient unit, you wait in the recovery area of the operating room."

To make matters worse, Worthington said right now they are at their peak season.

"In January and February you see more impact from patients, the community who have respiratory illnesses and complications and stresses to their other illnesses as a result of that," he said. "January and February are, I would say, the heaviest months in hospitals."

He said overcrowding isn't only taking place at the General and Civic, but at facilities across the Champlain Local Integrated Health Network.

Worthington said hospitals must find ways to direct patients who do not need accute care elsewhere.

He added, they could also look at ways of making do during the busy months.

"Where we have more pressures for patients who have medical illnesses, we need to increase the beds available for those patients in, I would say, late December into middle, probably the end of March and decrease our surgical activity at that time to allow that adjustment and then increase our surgical bed compliment through late spring, early summer." said Worthington.

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