No end in sight for health care staffing shortage in Ottawa and Ontario

Nurses and hospital staff describe it as a dire situation.

While COVID positive cases aren’t overwhelming the health care system like they did at the start of the pandemic, the virus is impacting the health care system in Ottawa and across Ontario in a different way now.

“This is not going to get better anytime soon, it’s just going to get worse, and I think it’s going to get worse quickly,” said Ottawa nurse Christie Cowan.

Her candid words come as she experiences the shortage on the front lines. Cowan says hospital staff are rundown, overworked, and struggling to hold on.

“Moral is very low, nurses are tired, burnt out, almost everyone who I work with is on some type of medication for anxiety or depression and therapy,” she said.

The issue – some are describing as a secondary effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. While hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with COVID positive patients anymore, the impacts of the virus are still being felt.

“It’s not COVID per-say because it’s not sick COVID patients in the hospital, it’s like the secondary impacts,” said Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, a critical care physician with the Ottawa Hospital.

“We’re seeing closures of emergency departments, ICUs scaling back, struggling to get shifts covered; this is not a short-term solution issue, this is having meaningful and long-term solutions to build back our health care system better,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician in Toronto.

It comes as another COVID wave in the province has crested according to several experts, but they also say this stage of the pandemic isn’t over yet.

“COVID’s not going anywhere and these problems’s we’re seeing don’t have easy solutions, unfortunately,” said Dr. Kyeremanteng.

And so without answers to a direct problem, some workers are already making difficult decisions.

“Nurses don’t need much reason anymore to leave the hospital, leave the bedside, and some leave the profession. With higher workloads, higher stress and less time off, it’s happening faster and faster,” said Cowan.

Now despite the health care system suffering with staffing issues – one message from health care professionals has not changed at all: if you are sick and need care do not hesitate to go to the hospital.