Hospitals across Ontario continue to experience high patient volumes and major staffing shortages.
Campbellford Memorial Hospital (CMH), a smaller rural hospital south-east of Peterborough, is seeing its capacity pressed past its limits.
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The hospital reports that over the past few months more than 50 people a day have been visiting the emergency department (ED), peaking at more than 70 people one day over the May long weekend.
It represents a more than 25 per cent increase in ED visits for the hospital.
“Increased visits to the ED on holiday weekends is nothing new, nor is a busy day here and there, especially in the summer,” commented Dr. Eshay Elia, chief of the emergency department and acting chief of staff, “but what is different over these past few months is how busy it is almost every single day.”
“We certainly don’t want to discourage people from coming into the ED if they need to, but we encourage those who do have alternative options, such as their family health practitioner, to consider them first for non-urgent issues.”
At one point last week, CMH’s 34-bed inpatient unit was operating at 141 per cent capacity with 48 patients.
“We’ve had to repurpose areas of the hospital to accommodate the increased patient volumes,” stated Nicole Wood, vice-president of patient care and chief nursing officer.
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CMH had to temporarily turn its day surgery unit into patient rooms and develop plans to repurpose other clinical areas as needed.
While some hospitals have had to shutdown their EDs, CMH has only had to do it once so far – on Dec. 24, the ED closed overnight due to a nursing shortage.
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“We are certainly not immune to the staffing shortages being seen across the province, and there are times where we’ve struggled to fill shifts. But we are doing everything we can to ensure an ED closure does not occur,” stated Eric Hanna, hospital interim president and CEO.
The hospital is prepared if a closure becomes necessary though. Contingency plans would include shutting off the blue H lighted signs, covering other signage and alerting residents through social media channels and news media.
“We do have plans in place in case a closure is needed as well as great local partners in both EMS and neighbouring hospitals to ensure the impact on patient care would be minimal,” added Hanna.
Hanna notes losing one or two health-care workers from any given shift could cause a closure.
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The hospital is still awaiting approval of a capital planning grant to redevelop it into a ‘campus of care’ model which would include long-term care beds, which would replace the aging hospital built in the 50s.
“We know what we want to do,” said Hanna, “we just need the Government to approve it.”
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