This must be the year we prioritize the workforce crisis in Canadian healthcare

On December 31st, a 37 year old mother tragically died in an emergency room in Nova Scotia.

Allison Holthoff waited six hours to be assessed in the ED, and communication with her family was infrequent. Quite appropriately, a review of the incident is underway to help identify what happened and what can be learned. Individuals who work in these high stress, urgent environments are among the most dedicated in the health system. I am certain those involved in this case are grieving this outcome.

The ability of an emergency room to function well is contingent on many important operational factors, but only some of those are within the control of the team. For example, if there is a shortage of staffed beds in the hospital, admissions are delayed and these patients must be cared for in the ED. When patients cannot access care in the community, many turn to the emergency room of their community hospital. The staff in these environments are stressed - figuratively and metaphorically.

My hope for Canadian healthcare in 2023 is that we prioritize our workforce crisis. We are beginning to see evidence of leadership at the federal level to support the efforts underway in the provinces and territories.  As a nation, we must take concrete steps to address burnout, and leveraging technologies that could help. We must also prioritize training and onboard more care providers (including those who are foreign trained). Finally, more team based care is an essential piece to this complex puzzle.

What happened in Amherst, Nova Scotia on new year’s eve was terrible for everyone involved. The quality review should determine what was preventable, but we don’t need to wait for these results to accelerate solutions to the workforce crisis. As a Canadian patient and family member, my hope is that in 2023, we can begin to rebuild confidence in the quality and safety of our health system.

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