Staffing issues at Toronto hospital lead to critical care bed alert

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A Toronto hospital has reached its intensive care capacity as health-care institutions in Ontario continue to struggle with high patient volumes and staffing issues.
Gillian Howard, director of communications for University Health Network (UHN), told Global News that Toronto General Hospital was under a critical care bed alert.
The alert means the hospital’s three intensive care units are “at their total bed capacity and/or have limited human resources to safely keep all physical critical care beds open and in operation,” Howard explained.
She specified that a staffing shortage — brought on by factors including the COVID-19 pandemic — had caused the alert to be issued.

UHN is currently recruiting to fill 371 register nursing vacancies, both for full-time and part-time positions.

“You should also be aware that there are a variety of roles within nursing so some of these roles require specific skills and experience,” Howard said.

The number of vacancies equates to almost 10 per cent of the roughly 4,000 nursing positions at UHN.Howard said pre-planned vacations and COVID-19 illness among staff were contributing to stretched staffing resources.Ontario Minister of Health Sylvia Jones said Tuesday she is working to accredit more foreign-trained nurses to work in the province’s burdened hospitals.“The plan is what we have, frankly, been doing for the last four years, (putting) historic investments into making sure that we have sufficient health-care workers to cover those shifts,” Jones said.

Jones touted more than 10,000 health-care workers added since the start of the pandemic. That includes 7,000 nurses and 2,400 personal support workers, a spokesman said.

“When under critical care bed alert we actively triage patients that require specialized ICU care,” Howard said.

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Toronto General Hospital is a University Hospital with 417 beds providing secondary and tertiary care in the heart of Toronto. Toronto General Hospital is acclaimed for its cardio-thoracic and transplant programs. In addition, it is the only Ontarian center providing Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) for respiratory and cardio-pulmonary failure. The multi-organ transplant program is Canada’s largest. More than 500 transplants are performed each year and more than 5000 recipients are followed by a multidisciplinary team. Our Medical Surgical ICU comprises 24 bed, specializing in post-transplant care (mainly lung and liver transplant) and respiratory and cardiac failure. Further, the Coronary and Cardio-Vascular Intensive Care Units care for patients with primary cardiac pathologies and post cardiac surgery patients respectively.

Toronto General Hospital (TGH) has ranked number five among the world’s best hospitals in a global ranking managed by a global market research company in partnership with Newsweek. This is TGH’s fourth year in the top five, and fifth year within the top 10, where it remains the only Canadian hospital listed and the best hospital in Canada as well as the top publicly funded hospital in the world.

Part of University Health Network (UHN), Canada’s largest research and teaching hospital, TGH is home to the world-leading Sprott Department of Surgery, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Ajmera Transplant Centre among other programs. Over its nearly 200-year history, TGH has led health care globally, including the first clinical use of insulin, the first successful single- and double-lung transplants, development of the revolutionary Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion System, the first organ transportation by drone, and the first successful direct stimulation of a heart that had stopped beating, the precursor of all pacemakers.

These and many more world-first achievements and enhancements to patient care and discovery have been made possible by the exceptional innovation and strength of Team UHN – from nurses to researchers to clinicians and everyone in between – fuelled by the support of generous donors.

“UHN is both proud and deeply appreciative to have again been recognized as an international leader in exceptional patient care, research, and education,” says Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN’s President and CEO. “We are honoured to be included among this group of prestigious hospitals that represent the very best in the world. This recognition is only possible because of Team UHN – the dedicated staff, physicians, researchers, learners, Board of Trustees members, and volunteers who truly live the mission of building a healthier world. We remain grateful for the steadfast support of our donor community and incredible Foundations, as well as our partners across all levels of government, for helping us advance our goals and deliver the very best care for our patients.”

“We’re so proud of the globally-influential work made possible at UHN by our visionary donors,” says Tennys Hanson, Chief Executive Officer of UHN Foundation and Vice President and Chief Development Officer of UHN. “Thank you to each and every donor for their dedication to this life-saving work and congratulations to Team UHN for this incredible achievement.”

The 2023 ranking rated more than 1,000 healthcare institutions and was finalized by a panel of doctors, medical professionals and administrators from across four continents.

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