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Hallway Nursing/ER Overcapacity – A Threat to Public Health

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I have walked to different hospitals in Ontario and all I have seen is long queues of patients who can barely support their sick bodies lying on the floor or leaning against walls.  This should not be a face of our health care system which has continuously been allocated a large share of our national budget.

As the president of the ONA, I want to reassert the position that we have held for along time as an organization that hallway nursing/ER overcapacity are  major impediments to  provision of  effective heath service.   The organization believes that health care providers must be provided with the appropriate working environment that will also nurse to give optimum care for the patients.

The current situation however impends on the efficiency of nursing practices.   It has become practically impossible for nurses to meet the nursing standards set by College of Nurses of Ontario (ONA, 2009). Like any other work, nurses need to be given the necessary tools placed in an environment that will allow them to offer the best service to the patients.

As an organization, we believe that hospital overcapacity is as a result of lack of innovative ways to expand our health care facilities to handle the growing number of patient requiring medical services (Aiken, 2002). Hospital overcapacity protocols result to hallway nursing since as nurses, we have the moral duty of projecting and saving life and there is no way that we can watch patients die while waiting to be admitted. We are forced to provide nursing services in hallway which puts patients and nurses at a risk. This has to be stopped through putting in place appropriate measures.

It is common that sometimes, overcrowding and long waits may occur in hospital emergency units.  This expected in times of emergency but it is not expected at all times. However, overcapacity in Emergency Room is having negative impact on the ability of the registered nurses to meet ER triage standards.  As a result there have been many complaints of underperformance of nurses, but I want to put it straight here that the hallway nursing and ER overcapacity greatly impends on our nursing standards.

Despite the health sector receiving a sizable share of our national budget, these funds have not been well allocated to increase bed capacity in our hospitals.  In most hospitals, the bed capacity has not been increased for the last two decades.  There is also a shortage of nursing staff which can allow for most of the patient to be transferred to long term care or to home care.  I want to emphasize here that hospital management is taking the wrong approach by calling for nurses to be allocated more patients to manage which is practically impossible without the provision of necessary support facilities in such unsafe environment like hallways.

 We need to understand that lack of privacy, space, equipment and supplies, and nursing staff affects patient safety and health outcomes. As a president of this organization, I would like to assure patients that our nurses are committed to their moral duty of protecting and saving lives through provision of high quality services that are safe for patient and nurses. However, the above problems have greatly impended on their capacity to offer such service. Therefore, it is time you as a patient stand up and asks the government to increase the amount of funding for development of physical facilities in our hospitals. As taxpayers, we have a duty of overseeing that our money is utilized in the most appropriate way. Every patient should stand up and demand for provision of health care facilities that do not put their health at risk. This is you time to stand up and support ONA in call for end of hallway nursing.   Ontarians need to write to their MPPs and if possible organize active protest that will bring government attention towards these serious issues in our hospitals.

I would also like to inform all nurses under ONA that the association has made hallway nursing the most urgent issue in 2009 that we need to deal with (Linda, 2009). I would like to call all our 54,000 members to call for help from all the Ontarians in order to raise awareness about this dangerous face of our hospitals.  Every nurse should take own initiative to increase patient awareness.


Aiken, W. (2002). Hospital nurse staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout, and job dissatisfaction. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 288(16)

Linda, H. (2009). “Hallway nursing” is unpleasant and risky. Retrieved 17th February 2009 from http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1414344&auth=

ONA, (2009). Position statements. Retrieved 17th February 2009 from http://www.ona.org/publications/position_statements

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