Hospitals overwhelmed by the pandemic’s onslaught are still facing a number of challenges, causing unprecedented wait times in emergency rooms across the country.
Along with limited hospital beds and a backlog of surgeries, a primary cause for dysfunction has been a shortage of physicians and nurses.
Many of the problems facing hospitals are not new, but experts say that the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, leading to a crisis so dire that patients are now starting to see emergency department closures in hospitals near them.
A LONG, ‘LONG WEEKEND’ FOR EMERGENCY ROOMS
On Saturday, Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital (PSFDH) announced a shutdown of its emergency department until Thursday, citing a COVID-19 outbreak. However, its doctors say the real reason is an ongoing staff shortage.
“Yeah, COVID caused the closure of the emergency department, but the reality of it is that we had no built-in resilience of our nursing staff,” Dr. Alan Drummond told CTV National News on Saturday.
Drummond said that PSFDH’s emergency room dropped from 50 nurses down to five, leaving the unit exceptionally thin.
“Somebody needs to be held accountable for the fact that we lost 50 per cent of our nursing staff within several months, which set us up, basically, to fail,” he said.
Drummond said the catchment area for the PSFDH is about 25,000 people in a large geographic area between Smiths Falls and Peterborough, meaning many patients travel long distances to get to the emergency department.
Patients needing urgent care will now have to drive 20 kilometres from Perth to Smiths Falls.
“I don’t think it’s fair for the people in this community,” local resident John Hastings told CTV News on Saturday.
The Town of Clinton in Ontario was without an emergency room for the entire Canada Day long weekend, as the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room announced a shutdown from July 1 to 5.
This marked the longest 24-hour closure of the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room.
Physician and nurse shortages are to blame, according to Deborah Wiseman, the chief nursing executive with the Huron-Perth Health Alliance, who anticipates more service disruptions this summer.
“Not just this weekend, but what you’ll see is more to come. I’m going to say for the next six months to several years, with our human health care shortages, both in the nursing and physician areas. We are really struggling to maintain services,” Wiseman told CTV National News.
Wiseman said they are investigating everything to try to resolve the health-care worker shortage and keep their emergency rooms open, including using paramedics in emergency rooms.
Other provinces are experiencing similar issues. Six emergency departments in Quebec will be partially shuttered this summer owing to a staffing shortfall, the provincial government announced on Thursday.
Nova Scotia Health says people should expect long wait times in all four health zones because of high demand during the long weekend.
“Unfortunately, we’re currently experiencing what we call ‘bed block,’ where we have a large number of admitted patients and nowhere to send them,” Dr. Margaret Fraser, a physician at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S. told CTV National News on Saturday.
Bonnie Nunn, a resident from Trehern, Manitoba, told CTV National News on Saturday that her daughter recently needed emergency treatment and had to be taken to Portage la Prairie, about 45 minutes away, because the Trehern emergency department was closed due to a lack of staff.
“I’m really angry, angry at everything. I don’t think enough thought went into this,” she said.
“I’m not angry at nurses. They need time off too.”
WHAT IS CAUSING THE STAFF SHORAGES?
Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told CTV News Atlantic in May that the rate of physician and nurse burnout is double what it was pre-pandemic.
“Our health-care system is at a level of crisis we’ve never really seen, and the health workers are in a state of crisis we’ve never seen,” said Smart.
A June survey released by Statistics Canada showed that 95 per cent of health workers feel that the pandemic has impacted their mental health and has added stress to their work-life balance.
During the pandemic, health workers have faced extended work hours, decreased vacation time, and changes in the method of delivering care.
In the fourth wave of the pandemic between September to November of 2021—the period in which the survey was conducted—many health workers were looking to leave or quit due to job stress or concerns around their mental health.
“How do we retain workers? Probably a raise,” Halifax-based ICU nurse, Elinor Kelly told CTV News Atlantic in May.
“Probably a decent one. I think that’s going to have to help. Especially for critical care nurses because critical care, we have a lot of people that we train and recruit, but after a year or so they can go work privately at triple the amount of money I’m making after 27 years.”
Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and president of the Council of Physicians at Hôpital de Lachine in Montreal, said he wants the government to make substantial changes.
“The health-care system has to be improved. And it can’t just be a short-term electoral promise … for the next few years, but long-term,” he told CTV National News on Saturday.
With files from Deena Zaidi and CTV News Atlantic
Prime Minister travelling to Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula today
Trudeau is there to continue the summer meet and greets he started in July in other parts of Canada.
His planned events include visits to a farm, wind farm and a train retrofitting plant in New Richmond.
Trudeau’s last stop in the region came when he was in full pre-campaign mode just one month before he called a federal election.
This visit comes as the provincial government is set to go into an election where the future of French is sure to play a big role.
On Wednesday, new census data showed Gaspé to be the only region in the province where the share of people claiming French as their first language grew in the last five years.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.
The Canadian Press
80 years after Dieppe, postcards share stories of soldiers who died in deadly raid
Paris Eakins was 26 years old when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in November 1940 during the Second World War.
He was born in Minnedosa, Man., where he lived until he attended the University of Manitoba, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree. Eakins worked at his town’s newspaper and went on to join the sports department at the Winnipeg Free Press.
After he enlisted, Eakins worked his way to become a pilot officer in a fighter squadron based in England in 1941. The next year, he was killed in northern France during the disastrous Dieppe Raid. He was 27.
Eakins’ story is featured in a Canadian postcard campaign ahead of the 80th anniversary of the raid on Friday.
The Juno Beach Centre Association has sent 400 unique postcards to addresses across the country that share the name and fate of a serviceman whose records show once lived in those places.
“(We) encourage people to take a moment to consider the anniversary, to consider what happened to this individual who lived in their home or very nearby to them, 80 or more years ago,” said Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the association’s director.
The Dieppe Raid, known as Operation Jubilee, on Aug. 19, 1942, was the Canadian Army’s first major combat against Nazi Germany.
Canadian and British troops landed on beaches near the German-occupied French port with a mission to capture the town, destroy the port facilities and return to England with information that could give them an advantage.
Instead, the raid backfired and Operation Jubilee became Canada’s bloodiest day of the Second World War.
“It was the Canadian Army’s baptism of fire against Nazi Germany during the war. Unfortunately, it was a deadly failure,” said Fitzgerald-Black.
About 5,000 Canadian soldiers took part in the raid. In less than 10 hours of fighting, more than 800 died, with about 100 more later succumbing to their injuries. About another 2,000 became prisoners of war.
Preparations for the postcard campaign began at the end of last year. Employees and volunteers at the association went through the service files of those who were killed to see if they could link their old home addresses to a current one.
They were able to develop a list of addresses for half of those who died. The list skews toward addresses in urban settings because those who were from rural areas couldn’t be reproduced, said Fitzgerald-Black. Many went to cities in southern Ontario, as well as Montreal and Winnipeg.
The association also produced a temporary exhibition honouring the anniversary in Normandy, France.
A delegation of federal ministers, veterans, representatives of veterans and Indigenous organizations, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces travelled to France this week to take part in events marking the anniversary.
Three of the veterans participating served in the Second World War, including a survivor of the raid.
“It’s vitally important that we continue to recognize and honour the extraordinary service and sacrifice witnessed 80 years ago on the beaches of Dieppe,” Lawrence MacAulay, minister of veterans affairs, said in a release.
“As the living memory of this seminal moment fades, we as Canadians must ensure that the legacy of those who served Canada is never forgotten.”
Stories like Eakins’ have made an impression on Fitzgerald-Black.
He hopes the postcard project will help Canadians remember the people who died serving their country and those who survived.
“They’re not going to be around much longer to share these stories — the stories of their comrades who were killed during the raid,” he said.
“And so we hope that Canadians will continue to take up the torch to do this into the future.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
Census data shows linguistic diversity on the rise in Canada – Saanich News
A growing number of new immigrants to Canada are bringing with them increasingly diverse languages, setting a record for the number of Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, new 2021 census data reveals.
One in four people in Canada have a mother tongue other than English or French, and about 12 per cent of people predominantly speak a non-official language at home as of last year.
Proficiency in those languages tends to fade after a generation or two, however, Statistics Canada’s deputy head of the Centre for Demography said Wednesday.
“From 2016 to 2021, the number of Canadians who predominantly speak languages other than English and French at home grew significantly,” said Éric Caron-Malenfant at a media briefing.
The trend is mainly driven by immigration, and continued even during the pandemic when immigration slowed considerably due to COVID-19 health restrictions and related backlogs, Caron-Malenfant said.
The average age of new immigrants is typically between 25 and 35, he said.
“After that, when you have children in Canada, often more and more English and French will be spoken at home,” he said.
British Columbia speech-language pathologist June Cheung noticed that phenomenon play out in her own Cantonese-speaking family and community when she was growing up in Edmonton.
“My parents were the ones who originally immigrated here from Hong Kong whereas my siblings and I, we were all born here,” Cheung said in an interview.
“My parents would speak to my older brothers and myself in Chinese but often we would reply in English.”
The generational language shift inspired her masters thesis, which further showed how “heritage” language proficiency fades with each generation.
“By the time the second generation has kids, it’s very unlikely that they’ll choose to use a heritage language,” she said.
The trend was also true for French-speaking families outside of Quebec in most provinces, the census data shows.
The proportion of Canadians living outside Quebec whose first official language spoken is French was down to 3.3 per cent in 2021 from 3.6 per cent in 2016.
Statistics Canada attributes the decline to the fact that people whose first official language is French tend to be older, and haven’t consistently passed the language on to the next generation. Sometimes other languages can take over inside the home.
Cheung, who says she’s reinvested in her Cantonese-speaking skills, says fading language proficiency can create intergenerational divides.
“I can ask you where the bathroom is, versus being able to talk about your hopes and fears, your dreams,” she said. “It’s a lot harder to have those conversations sometimes if there is that language barrier.”
Mandarin and Punjabi are the most common non-official languages, with more than a million people predominantly speaking one of the two languages.
Statistics Canada noted a large increase in the growth of the number of Canadians who predominantly speak South Asian languages such as Punjabi, Gujarati, Hindi or Malayalam since the last census in 2016, a rise which was fuelled by immigration.
The growth rate of the population speaking South Asian languages was at least eight times greater than that of the overall Canadian population during the same period.
The massive increase in the growth of South Asian languages closely aligns with immigration trends from those countries.
At the same time, European languages like Italian, Polish and Greek are fading in Canada.
“This decline is primarily linked to the speakers of these languages aging, a significant proportion of whom emigrated to Canada before 1980,” Caron-Malenfant said.
Relatively few recent immigrants from those countries have recently landed in Canada, he said.
Regardless of their mother tongue, most people in Canada access services in one of the two official languages.
English and French are still by far the most common languages spoken in Canada and 90 per cent of Canadians speak at least one of the official languages.
—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
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