TORONTO, ON – Unless Toronto area hospitals hire 15,000 staff annually, problems with spiking emergency room wait times and unprecedented staffing shortages will deepen as the city’s population grows and ages, said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) today at a media conference outside Toronto’s Scarborough General Hospital.

CUPE based its call for the 15,000 new hospital staff hires at more than dozen a hospitals in Toronto, the majority with multiple hospital campus sites, on available government and hospital data.

Over the past year, the average length of ER wait times at Toronto hospitals has increased considerably.  At Toronto Western Hospital wait times crept up more than 80 per cent to 26.4 hours. At St. Joseph’s Hospital ER wait times went up 71 per cent to 37.9 hours. The Scarborough Health Network saw wait times at the Centenary campus increase by 62 per cent, up to 22.2 hours, while the Scarborough General Hospital ER wait times increased by 18.8 per cent to 21.5 hours. Across Ontario, the wait time to be seen in emergency has consistently spiked since the Doug Ford PC’s have been in government with a 47 per cent increase in the last year alone. The provincial ER wait time average is now at 20.7 hours.

This summer, Toronto hospitals experienced severe staffing shortages and high patient volumes. Several dozen hospitals across Ontario also closed emergency rooms and other units. These staff shortages and 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 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.”

Long emergency room wait-times result in “offload delays” for paramedics, preventing them from safely transferring 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. This is particularly pronounced in Toronto, where call volumes have increased by an average of 4.5 per cent over the last decade without a corresponding increase in staffing levels. 

“Toronto’s paramedics have stepped up admirably to continue serving our city while being forced to do more with less, often risking injury and burnout. But even as paramedics are missing breaks and consistently working overtime to provide the best service possible, there are often critical ambulance shortages in Toronto as in other parts of the province. Our system is crumbling and it’s high time for the Ontario provincial government to work on a staffing strategy that ensures safe staffing levels and a high-quality paramedic service,” says Mike Merriman, CUPE 416 – Toronto Paramedic Services – Unit Chair.

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 per cent 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.

In Ontario, CUPE represents 50,000 front-line hospital staff including RPNs, personal support workers, cleaners, porters, paramedical and administrative and other workers and more than 6000 paramedics and dispatchers. CUPE represents about 1200 paramedics working for the City of Toronto.


For more information contact:

Stella Yeadon       CUPE Communications     416-559-9300

Zaid Noorsumar  CUPE Communications     647-995-9859