PERTH, ON – Unless the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital hires 100 staff (yearly), problems with spiking emergency room wait times and unprecedented staffing shortages will deepen as the population ages, said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) at a media conference in Perth today.

CUPE based its call for the 100 new hospital staff hires at the Perth/Smiths Falls hospital, on available government and hospital data. Ontario Health numbers also show that emergency room wait times at both the Perth and Smiths Falls sites of the district hospital have increased significantly. Across Ontario, the wait time to be seen in emergency has consistently spiked and is now at 20.7 hours since the Doug Ford PC’s have been in government. Ontario ER wait times have increased 47% in the last year alone.

This summer, the Perth hospital emergency department was among several hospital closures in eastern Ontario. These closures will “only intensify” under the current health human resource strategy of the PC provincial government, said Dave Verch, a registered practical nurse (RPN) and first vice-president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE).

Verch added that “so far, the provincial government has not shown the urgency or commitment to public health care required to develop a hospital workforce retention plan to stabilize capacity in our public hospitals. That would require them to improve working conditions in order to stop the bleeding of staff. This includes increasing wages, full-time employment and lowering workloads. Then the number of resignations would go down and hospitals would not have to recruit so many new staff to deal with the unprecedented turnover rates and increased needs of an ageing and growing population.”

Both Perth and Smiths Falls have a very high portion of the population 65 (years) and over. More than 30 % of the population in Perth and about 26% in Smiths Falls are 65 plus. Ontario-wide the comparable figure is 18.5%.  “These are communities with a lot of elders that need appropriate care including access to hospital services,” Verch said.

Long emergency room wait-times result in “offload delays” for paramedics, who are unable to safely transfer patients to the care of hospital staff. Offload delays combined with understaffing at paramedic services and rising call volumes are subsequently causing critical ambulances shortages.

Across Ontario, demand for paramedic services has increased by 40 per cent over the past decade due to pressures of an underfunded health system and an ageing population.

“The Ontario provincial government must immediately invest in improving staffing levels and working conditions for both hospitals and paramedic services. Paramedics are frequently working over-time and missing breaks to keep up with demand, which is causing high rates of injuries and burnout. If we don’t improve working conditions, we will continue down this disastrous path of ER closures and delayed response times to 911 calls,” says Rob Cunningham, vice-chair of the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario (CACO).

To keep hospital emergency rooms and other units from closing and to decrease the time paramedics spend offloading patients at hospitals, overall, across Ontario, 46,000 more hospital staff must be hired just to deal with a 14.95% hospital staff turnover rate, the very high number of hospital job vacancies, the impacts of COVID and long COVID, and the increased needs of an aging and growing population.


For more information contact:

Stella Yeadon              CUPE Communications 416-559-9300  

Zaid Noorsumar         CUPE Communications 647-995-9859