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Elderly Sudbury man a victim of hospital overcrowding, Gélinas tells legislature

Ontario's hospitals have reached 'a tipping point,' she argues

An elderly Sudbury man died in hospital on Oct. 29 still waiting for a bed in a long-term-care setting after months of uncertainty, Sudbury MPP France Gélinas told the Ontario legislature on Monday.

The party's health critic used the example to illustrate what she said is the human cost of hospital overcrowding. Her speech at Queen's Park came a week after Ontario announced Health Sciences North would be receiving funding for 16 more beds, as part of province-wide funding for 2,000 more beds to improve access to care.

“Our hospitals are at a tipping point (and) some of them are so overcrowded that it is starting to impact quality of care,” Gélinas said. “I will give the example of Mr. Gratton from my riding. On May 13th, Mr. Gratton felt ill and went to the emergency room, where it was determined that he needed a pacemaker and that he had advanced prostate cancer.”

His deteriorating health made it clear he needed long-term care, but what he received was months of uncertainty.

“At any other time he would have been assessed in hospital and given options to wait his turn for an LTC (long-term care) bed. But not anymore," Gélinas said. 

To apply for the LTC bed, she said he had to leave the hospital, but because he required 24-hour care and oxygen, had a catheter and needed help with transferring and feeding, he couldn't go home, so was sent to a retirement home.

There, falling out of bed became just one of several concerns for Mr. Gratton and his family.

“A few days later, the PSW (personal support worker) assigned to his care did not come in and he spent the day unfed, in soiled clothes without his medication," Gélinas said. "He was then ‘in crisis’ and could apply for a LTC home."

A few more days passed, she said, and Mr. Gratton became ill after breakfast. Taken to the emergency room at Health Sciences North, Mr. Gratton was found to be suffering from pneumonia, a bladder infection and blood poisoning.

By this time, an LTC bed had opened up for him, but Mr. Gratton was too sick to move in.

"Mr. Gratton died last night in hospital, Mr. Speaker," Gélinas said Monday. "His family felt that the overcrowding in our hospital meant that they were only focused on getting him out the door, on clearing a bed.

"This family’s struggle is over, Mr. Speaker, but how many families are living the same struggle right now? Too many.”

Jamie West, the Ontario NDP's candidate in the Sudbury riding, echoed Gélinas' concerns in a statement to media and highlighted the challenges Health Sciences North has faced, blaming spending cuts from the Liberals and Conservatives.

"On average, HSN treats between 30 and 35 people per day in its hallways," West said. "The capacity of its acute care unit did not fall below 100 per cent in 2015 or 2016 and reached a startling 116 per cent in January 2017 — 85 per cent is considered the safe limit."