Toronto Western Hospital ER was at risk of closing this weekend

A downtown hospital was able to find enough last-minute workers for its emergency room this weekend after it risked closing due to a staff shortage.

The University Health Network (UHN) released a memo to medical staff this week saying it was experiencing a “serious shortage” of staff in the emergency department (ED) at Toronto Western Hospital.

The network said it has an “urgent need” for “volunteers” to fill Friday-Sunday nursing shifts.

“We will not be able to operate the TWH ED safely if we are unable to fill nursing shifts this weekend,” UHN staff wrote in the memo obtained by CP24.

“I am aware that it is an additional burden to again ask for volunteers from our health professions, including doctors, to take shifts. During the latest wave of Covid, our doctors, residents and fellows stepped up repeatedly to do just that.

UHN added that pay would be $50 per hour.

On Saturday morning, the UHN confirmed to CP24 that it was able to find workers for this weekend and that the emergency department is “now covered”.

“UHN, like many hospitals, was in a very difficult staffing situation over the weekend due to significantly higher numbers of patients presenting to the ER, sicker patients, staffing shortages, staff illness and well-deserved and necessary vacation time,” UHN spokesperson. Gillian Howard said in a statement.

Howard added that the organization’s units were able to take patients admitted from the emergency room “as quickly as possible,” which helped ease pressure on emergency rooms.

UHN includes the Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Michener Institute of Education.

Greater Toronto hospitals have faced staffing shortages in previous waves of the pandemic, with the entire hospital system overwhelmed by an influx of infected patients and worker burnout.

As Ontario is in a seventh wave of the pandemic, Howard says hospitals continue to face similar hurdles.

“This wave of the pandemic is affecting the staffing of all healthcare organizations. Healthcare professionals continue to rise to the challenge, but it has been a very long and difficult task and people are tired,” she said.

“These solutions are short term and we are focusing on longer term solutions including international recruitment, training and deployment of clinical supports, digital health solutions to name a few.”

Lillian L. Pena