Non-urgent ER visits among homeless people during winter rose by 24% across province since 2018
When Dr. Carolyn Snider arrives for her early morning emergency room shifts, she regularly sees between five and 10 people in the waiting area who don't need medical attention — just a safe place to stay warm.
There's been a significant increase in the number of homeless people taking refuge in downtown Toronto emergency departments over the last few winters, Snider said. She and colleagues did some research to see if they could quantify what they were seeing.
The resulting study, published on a pre-print website Tuesday, examined data that had been collected from hospitals across Ontario, documenting ER visits from the winter of 2018-19 through to last winter, ending March 31, 2023.
It found that non-urgent emergency department visits among people who are homeless increased by 24 per cent across the province over those five winters.
'We should prioritize getting people housed': expert
The study results don't surprise Stephen Gaetz, head of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness based at York University.
Gaetz was not involved in the study but said "the results are to be trusted."
"One of the things we need to come to terms with in our response to homelessness is that if we do not provide people with access to adequate housing that is safe, affordable and appropriate, as well as necessary supports if they have health and or mental health challenges, then we shouldn't be surprised that people experiencing homelessness are going to make decisions that we may not like," Gaetz said in an email to The Canadian Press.
"If we don't like people experiencing homelessness going to emergency services at hospitals, sleeping in tents or in parks, or sleeping and keeping warm on the subway, then we should prioritize getting people housed," he said, noting that preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place is also important.
Read the full article on the CBC News' web site .