Ontario’s hospitals are overflowing with patients.

Across the province, a variety of factors – funding cuts, demographic changes, winter weather, long-term care backlogs – are stretching medical staff and facilities to their limits. With flu season and winter fracture season now upon us, patient safety advocates and medical malpractice lawyers are concerned by the growing risk of medical errors.

CBC News London reported in November on the issue of “bed blockers” – people who no longer need acute care but can’t be released from hospital – at the London Health Science Centre (LHSC). Over the last four years, these patients have occupied 298 years’ worth of bed time at the facility. Most are elderly or suffer from cognitive disorders and are waiting for space in long-term care facilities or home care.

“It’s astounding to think about it, but it’s become our reality, unfortunately,” Ontario Nurses Association president and former LHSC nurse Vicki McKenna told the CBC.

McKenna believes funding cuts are primarily responsible for overcrowding at her former hospital.

“Some of the funding decisions and cuts have been catastrophic in many instances,” she said.

Hospitals operating on tight budgets are forced to reduce staff and equipment and treat patients with fewer doctors, nurses, and beds. The situation is complicated by the fact that Ontario’s population is rapidly aging.

“We don’t have enough appropriate long term care home beds. That’s creating a backlog in hospitals where patients needing long-term care really have nowhere else to go, “said Graham Webb, executive director for the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly to the CBC. “I don’t think it’s always been like this. I’ve been with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly for the last 23 years and certainly it’s always been the case there have been patients waiting in hospital for admission to long term care homes, but never at the proportion we’re seeing now.”

What Does Hospital Overcrowding Mean for Medical Malpractice Lawyers?

Hospital overcrowding puts enormous strain on medical staff and facilities. Staff are asked to care for more patients with diminishing resources, which causes fatigue and overwork and makes medical errors and misdiagnoses more likely. The “bed blockers” issue also presents challenges. With acute care beds occupied by patients waiting for discharge, new patients are sometimes housed in hallways, waiting rooms, or even bathrooms, locations where the risk of infection is higher than in traditional hospital rooms. The annual winter influx of flu and fracture patients makes the situation worse.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury in an Ontario medical facility, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers can help you understand the challenges associated with medical malpractice cases and suggest options for pursuing compensation.


Greg Neinstein