Ontario Health Coalition sign, May 30, 2023. (Photo by Maureen Revait) Ontario Health Coalition sign, May 30, 2023. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

Report reveals alarming surge in hospital service closures across Ontario

A new report from the Ontario Health Coalition says over 900 closures of crucial hospital services are plaguing communities across the province.

Residents from the hardest-hit towns and regions, including locations in Midwestern Ontario like Wingham, Durham, Walkerton, Chesley, and Clinton, voiced their concerns in a press conference outside the main legislative building at Queen’s Park on the morning of Tuesday, December 5, 2023.

The report shows how the closures extend beyond geographical boundaries, impacting vital hospital services such as emergency departments, maternity and obstetrics, outpatient laboratories, and intensive care units.

“In the North, the distances between hospitals that are experiencing service closures are huge. Some hospitals have had services closed when they are an hour to four hours away from the next open service” says Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “In the counties of Midwestern Ontario – Perth, Huron, Wellington, Dufferin, Bruce and Grey – we are seeing multiple hospital emergency departments closed at the same time with little to no notice. Patients in medical crises have to confirm on their own that the next hospital emergency isn’t also closed.”

The duration of closures is increasing, and multiple towns are facing shutdowns of essential services, often with little notice.

The report's key findings underscore the severity of the crisis, with an alarming 868 emergency department closures, resulting in a loss of 30,155 hours of care – equivalent to 3.44 years. Beyond emergency departments, closures extend to urgent care centers, outpatient laboratories, obstetrics units, ICUs, and labor and delivery units, accumulating to a total of 1,199 instances.

Midwestern Ontario towns are facing acute strain:


The emergency department at Chesley Hospital had to deal with 196 closures between January 1 and November 24, 2023


Clinton Public Hospital's emergency department has not operated overnight since December 2, 2019 due to staffing shortages. 324 closures have occurred since January 1.


The emergency department at Durham Hospital witnessed 51 closures in 2023.

Mount Forest:

At the Louise Marshall Hospital, the emergency department has closed six times in 2023.


The Seaforth Community Hospital's emergency department confronted 17 temporary closures, further amplifying the healthcare challenges in the region.

St. Marys:

The St. Marys Memorial Hospital's emergency department has closed five times since January 1, 2023.


Walkerton's Emergency Department faced 20 overnight closures due to persistent staff shortages.


The Wingham and District Hospital's emergency department grappled with 31 overnight closures, predominantly during the summer months.

Ms. Mehra also blames a "unprecedented failure of leadership" from the provincial government.

“The Ford government has not stepped in and set a standard of expectation that these vital services remain open," she said. "The failure of the provincial government to take responsibility for planning, recruiting and retaining needed healthcare staff, dealing with crises and setting standards for access to the most urgent of health care services is at odds with the approach of Ontario’s governments dating back at least forty years.”

The report says that root causes for the ongoing issues include staff shortages, and the provincial government's lack of intervention and failure to establish standards in the face of staffing crises.

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