Why We Need to End Hallway Medicine
On October 3rd, the Ontario government announced the formation of the Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine, and I was asked to join this council. Dr. Ruben Devlin, who serves as a special advisor to the premier on healthcare, has been named the chair of the council, and he will be leading a group of ten individuals who bring various expertise from across the health professional sectors. Together, we will advise the government on ways in which patient care could be improved, and we will develop and recommend strategic priorities that could guide the government’s efforts to make the system more efficient.
Hallway medicine has been a systemic problem in our healthcare system for a while now. When hospitals do not have the capacity to provide appropriate beds to all of their patients, nurses and physicians end up treating patients in hallways and other spaces that are far less than ideal. In these circumstances, patients lack the privacy and resources that they deserve, and it is difficult for healthcare providers to do their best work. More important, it’s a barometer and reflection of some fundamental stresses (and flaws) in our system. This problem has deep roots and hallway medicine will not easily be solved. Some of these roots can be traced to issues outside of hospitals, including our systems of complex continuing care, home care and long-term care. But even more profound, it is likely that many of these issues trace to the ways in which we deal with more fundamental issues – determinants of health, like poverty, homelessness and many other social inequities. Despite the challenges, forming this council marks a promising step in the right direction.
I am excited to be working with my colleagues on this council because I believe that there is much work that could be done to improve healthcare for people in Ontario. Hallway medicine is certainly one of the larger problems we face, but it is by no means the only one. There are complex challenges in our healthcare system that will require broad vision, creative thinking, and dogged determination to solve. As Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, I see on a daily basis both the strengths and weaknesses of our system, and I am optimistic that this council will develop ideas that can intensify the former and mitigate the latter.
My colleagues on this council come to it with a wealth of experience that I am confident will be used to help us generate meaningful insights into the problems facing our healthcare system. No less important, I believe that we are all coming to the council with an open mind and a willingness to listen and collaborate. And I believe that the government is willing to do the same as well.
The full list of members of the council is as follows:
- Rueben Devlin, Special Advisor and Chair
- Adalsteinn Brown, Professor and Dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto
- Connie Clerici, CEO, Closing the Gap Healthcare
- Barb Collins, President and CEO, Humber River Hospital
- Michael Decter, President and CEO, LDIC Inc.
- Peter Harris, Barrister and Solicitor
- Gillian Kernaghan, President and CEO, St. Joseph’s Health Care London
- Jack Kitts, President and CEO, The Ottawa Hospital
- Kimberly Moran, CEO, Children's Mental Health Ontario
- David Murray, Executive Director, Northwest Health Alliance
- Richard Reznick, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences at Queens University
- Shirlee Sharkey, President and CEO, Saint Elizabeth Health
I am eager to work with all of them, and I look forward to updating the readers of this blog on our efforts as they develop.
In the meantime, have you been affected by hallway medicine in some way? What factors do you think should be taken into account by the council? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below or, better yet, please stop by the Macklem House – my door is always open.