Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Creating 1,200 New Hospital Beds across Province to Ease Overcrowding

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Creating 1,200 New Hospital Beds across Province to Ease Overcrowding

Article excerpt

Ontario creating 1,200 new hospital beds

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TORONTO - The Ontario government is spending $100 million to add hundreds of new beds to hospitals across the province to address the issue of overcrowded wards ahead of what's expected to be a bad flu season.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins made the announcement on Monday and said adding the 1,200 beds is the equivalent of opening six medium-sized hospitals.

"The majority of these beds will be up and running in two to four weeks," he said. "Certainly, most, if not all of them, this calendar year because we feel that it's important that they be made available at that time."

The province is also spending $40 million more on home care services in addition to $24 million to create 600 transitional spaces to provide specialized care outside of hospitals and 200 spaces for supportive housing for seniors, Hoskins said. The transitional spaces will be in long-term care homes, or will take the form of specialized care provided in a patient's own home.

A portion of the new hospital beds -- 225 -- will be in two previously shuttered Toronto hospital sites, the Humber River Hospital's Finch site and the University Health Network's Hillcrest site. Both sites will be used to care for alternate level of care patients, many of whom are waiting in hospital for a bed in a long-term care facility.

"These are appropriate settings," Hoskins said of reopening the hospital sites. "They will be providing the highest quality care."

The Liberal government has been facing mounting calls in recent months to act on overcrowded hospitals, where patients have ended up in hallways, boardrooms and even cafeterias when regular beds fill up.

The new hospital beds across the province will be added ahead of the flu season, which is anticipated to be difficult this winter, Hoskins said. Canada looks to Australia as a predictor of the flu season to come and that country -- which has its winter when we have our summer -- had a high level of illness, he said.

"It's prudent that we make sure that we are prepared and certainly one aspect of this decision is to ensure that our hospitals do have the capacity should we face a particularly bad flu season this year," he said. …

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