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Province needs to help with hospital issue, French says

FOI reveals concerning numbers at local hospitals

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa’s MPP is calling on the provincial government to take action after new information shows that mental health beds at Oshawa’s hospital have been operating over capacity for the majority of 2017.

Internal documents, obtained by the NDP through Freedom of Information requests, shows that mental health beds at Lakeridge Health Oshawa have been operating at an average capacity of 117 per cent between January and May of this year.

More specifically, throughout the first five months of 2017, the numbers show the lowest occupancy rate sitting around 114 per cent, and the highest at 123 per cent in May.

For Jennifer French, the numbers are startling, but also an affirmation of what she has been consistently hearing from those residents visiting her downtown office.

“So many people are coming in with healthcare needs and long-term care needs,” she says. “It’s staggering and that’s only going to grow as our community grows.”

To do that, French says the provincial Liberals need to come up with a funding model that will address issues in the long term.

“They’re really good at bandaids,” she says, noting that Oshawa is not alone in this issue, and that there needs to be a plan to address the need across the board.

“We can’t be elbowing out our other Ontario neighbours to say we have more need,” she says. “Our communities all have need and we have to all be pushing the government to address the need, not just throw bandaids at it.”

This year’s provincial budget provided a list of new funding sources and options for hospitals, as the Liberals pledged an additional $7 billion over the next three years to improve access to health care. Currently, the province’s funding model provides dollars on a population basis.

And while the hospital’s mental health beds are facing ongoing pressures, Lakeridge is also continuing to deal with the fallout from the fire at its Port Perry hospital on Aug. 25.

“The closure is disappointing to us and the north Durham community who rely on services close to home,” stated Matthew Anderson, the president and CEO of Lakeridge Health in a previous release. “Restoring and reopening our Port Perry hospital is a top priority.”

However, it will be no easy task as repairing everything from operating rooms, medical equipment and medical gases will be need to be handled, something the hospital has labelled as a “significant undertaking.” The closure is expected to last into the summer of 2018.