ontario hospitals

Ontario hospitals are just as short-staffed as Pearson to the point that ERs are closing

Staffing issues have been plaguing a ton of industries in Ontario lately, whether its small businesses like bars, cafes and restaurants or major transit hubs like Toronto's Pearson Airport.

And while residents have had to deal with delays and hours-long lineups at places like the airport as a result, there's one sector that's having such a hard time hiring and holding on to employees that facilities have been forced to shut down altogether — and unlike pizza joints and air travel, these services are literally life or death.

Hospitals across the province have been shuttering their emergency rooms to the public for days lately as they face a dearth of nurses and other healthcare professionals, leaving entire municipalities without an open ER.

The healthcare facility in Red Lake in the North of the province was set to close today because of a doctor shortage, leaving patients to drive a staggering 216 km to get to the nearest hospital. Thankfully, locum coverage was secured at the last minute, though the small hub remains strained.

Some other recent towns impacted include Clinton, Perth, KingstonWingham and Listowel, under two hours from Toronto toward Kitchener.

"All hospitals in Southwestern Ontario are experiencing staffing shortages, including nurses, physicians, laboratory, allied health and support staff," the Listowel Wingham Hospitals Alliance wrote in a statement announcing their temporary closure this week.

"Hospitals are all working closely together to minimize potential service impacts as a result of shortages."

A drastic lack of nurses can in part be blamed on continued cuts to healthcare funding and open positions, salary increase caps, people leaving the profession due to pandemic burnout, and COVID outbreaks among active staff. 

Ontario now has the lowest ratio of registered nurses in direct care to the number of residents out of any province, and according to numbers shared with CP24 by the Ontario Hospital Association, the amount of time people are spending waiting in emerg here is now at a 14-year high as the sector deals with huge backlogs.

It's something the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario has called "a deep crisis," with over 75 per cent of nurses saying they are burnt out, and 69 per cent saying they plan to leave their role within the next few years.

The organization warns that the "instability in the nursing profession, if left unchecked, will have profound impacts on the profession, the effective functioning of the health system and the quality of care Ontarians receive."

Lead photo by

Kingston Health Sciences Centre

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