‘This is a longstanding problem’: GRH CEO on hospital staffing shortages

By Christine Clark

The CEO and President of Grand River Hospital is speaking out on the issue of staffing shortages in hospitals across the province, saying it's a longstanding problem that predates the pandemic, and predates the current Conservative government.

As of Thursday morning, 84 staff members, half of whom are nurses and physicians, are off because of COVID reasons. Ron Gagnon says this makes up about one per cent of GRH's workforce.

“We continue to struggle with making sure that we have enough staff in all the various areas of our organizations, our staff continue to show up everyday and provide compassionate, high quality care.” 

When it comes to wait times in the ER, Gagnon notes they are doing better than the Ontario average but would like to aim for an average time of eight hours. 

“Like most hospitals across the province, our total time in the Emergency Department is up from where it typically is. Right now, if you're admitted into our hospital, on average you're going to spend about 11.6 hours getting from front door to bed. To put that into context, the Ontario average is 20.1 hours.”

Gagnon says the frustration patients have been feeling, when it comes to wait times, has resulted into an increase in verbal abuse and violence against staff. 

“Know that the staff that is caring for you is doing the absolute best they can and sometimes they might be in front of you, after working several hours of overtime. And it's never ok for our staff to experience violence, verbal or physical and they're seeing more of that these days … be respectful of the people that are caring for us.” 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday he's doing everything in his power to add more health-care workers to the system.

“All hospitals are doing everything we can to make sure that we have enough staff to provide high quality care on a day to day basis, we are always willing to be at the table to help with solutions. It's not going to be solutions of the past that will fix this problem,” says Gagnon. “This is a longstanding problem, it predates this government, and it is fair to say it and predates the pandemic.”

At Grand River Hospital, Gagnon says they are trying numerous programs to help get more staff. 

This includes a program that has nursing students helping in PSW roles at the hospital, before they graduate. Gagnon says 95 per cent of the students in that program, go on to get full time jobs at GRH.

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