Muskoka hospital says patient volumes surge to 150 per cent capacity

By Allison Jones in Toronto

Patient volumes at a pair of hospitals in central Ontario have surged to as high as 150 per cent of its capacity, the health-care network is warning.

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare said in a statement this week that beds are full at its hospitals in Huntsville, Ont., and Bracebridge, Ont.

“We are caring for admitted patients wherever we can find space to,” Diane George, vice president of integrated care, patient services and quality wrote in a statement. 

“Our teams have been working incredibly hard under increased pressure in every department of the hospitals. We are not unlike many hospitals across the province grappling with dramatic surges and ongoing staffing challenges.”

Hospitals around Ontario have faced staffing shortages, with many forced to implement temporary emergency room closures as a result – an ER in Minden had to permanently close, and urgent care centres in two Niagara Region communities have stopped operating overnight.

Last year during the fall and winter respiratory virus season hospital capacity was acutely strained, particularly in children’s hospitals.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the province is taking a number of steps to help ease strain on hospitals.

“We have increased our investment by $44 million this year to reduce emergency department wait times through local, innovative solutions, launched the Models of Care Innovation Fund to support innovative staffing models, allowing hospitals to use their staff to their full potential,” Hannah Jensen wrote in a statement.

“Through our minor ailment initiative (allowing pharmacists to prescribe some medications) along with expanding 9-1-1 models of care (allowing paramedics to take patients to destinations other than an ER such as a mental health facility) we are ensuring patients can connect to the care they need while avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room.”

The Muskoka hospital says patients can help too by ensuring they make use of other options for care, when appropriate, such as a family doctor, community care or virtual options.

“Hospitals are unique in that the doors are always open and people are never turned away,” George wrote. 

“Meanwhile the public can do its part to choose the most appropriate option for care in the right place at the right time by the right provider to conserve emergency department capacity for real emergencies.”

Banner image: Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2023.