Staffing shortage hits several Ontario hospitals hard, nurses’ union raises concerns

Several Ontario hospitals reduced service in certain areas over the long weekend due to staffing shortages, as an Ontario nurses union called on the province to address what it called an alarming situation.

The emergency departments at Wingham and District Hospital were to be closed from Saturday night until early Sunday morning and at Listowel Memorial Hospital for much of the day on Sunday. In Huron County, Seaforth Community Hospital said it was temporarily closing its emergency room overnight because it was running short of staff.

In Bowmanville, Ontario, the local hospital was temporarily closing its intensive care unit due to a staffing shortage. Lakeridge Health, which runs the site and four other hospitals in the Durham region, said staff from its Bowmanville facility would be consolidated into critical care sites at its Ajax Pickering and Oshawa hospitals.

In Orangeville, Ontario, the Headwaters Health Care Center said it was redirecting obstetrical services from Thursday through Monday due to a lack of pediatrician coverage. He said there were protocols in place to support patients if they arrive at the hospital in labor.

The Ontario Nurses Association said it had heard from members about staffing shortages affecting more than a dozen hospitals in various ways before the long weekend.

“Or it’s closures, bed reductions, that they’re redirecting patients, things like that,” association president Cathryn Hoy said in an interview Friday.

Today he said his union was “alarmed” at the impact the nursing shortage is having on patient care in Ontario, and called on the government to meet with health care unions to discuss solutions.

“We cannot wait any longer to resolve this crisis that is harming Ontarians and their access to health care,” Hoy said.

Ontario hospitals have grappled with staff-related strain in recent weeks, with some having to temporarily close emergency rooms while others have had to rely on redeployed staff and students to cover shifts.

As examples of solutions to the crisis, Hoy suggested ensuring that internationally trained nurses are more quickly licensed to work in the province and accelerating a program to help registered practical nurses become registered nurses.

Nurses are also seeking more assured access to personal protective equipment, she added, as exhausted workers face continued risk of COVID-19 during a seventh wave of infections with few public health measures in place to mitigate the spread.

There should also be incentives to bring back retired nurses who will be needed to train new graduates and nurses trained outside of Ontario, Hoy said. She suggested repealing legislation that caps wage increases at one percent a year to attract workers to the field.

The government said hospitals are expected to have plans to mitigate the risk to patient care when departments are closed.

Those plans should include communication with the public about reductions and alternative care options, staff assigned to receive patients unaware of the emergency department closure, a process for inpatient coverage, and a staffed ambulance. on standby in the closed emergency. department if possible.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones declined an interview request from The Canadian Press on Friday, but provided a written statement from Jones that said the province is working with “all partners,” including hospitals and unions, to address “the challenge of maintaining the necessary staffing”. levels.”

He pointed to past government efforts to bolster staffing levels, including hiring internationally educated nurses and expanding a summer doctor substitute program that connects doctors with hospitals that need help.

“We have an ambitious plan for the largest health care recruitment and training initiative in the province’s history, which is already beginning to see results,” Jones’ statement said.

Jones has rarely spoken to the media since taking over as health minister last month. Critics have called on her to take a more public leadership role in discussing the crisis in the province’s hospitals and the government’s planned response.

Those calls were echoed by the Opposition New Democrats on Friday amid news of the estimated closures of the Ontario Nurses Association.

“Where is Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones?” health critic France Gelinas said in a written statement.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 29, 2022.

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