Walkerton Hospital ER shifts to reduced hours

(Blackburn News file photo)

The South Bruce Grey Health Centre Board of Directors has approved a reduction of services at the Walkerton hospital site due to nursing staff shortages.

Starting Monday, December 27th, the Emergency Department at the Walkerton site will operate between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for an indefinite period and be closed 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“We have had several close calls over the last six months where we almost had an unplanned emergency department closure, and it has become clear that we will not have enough staff to continue to operate at our current level of service,” explained Michael Barrett, SBGHC President & CEO. “I must emphasize that we have only been able to keep services open to date based on the good will and hard work of our front line staff and managers, and this situation is not sustainable.”

In addition, the Inpatient Unit at the Chesley site of SBGHC will be converted to a 20-bed Alternate Level of Care Unit for an indefinite period to allow for an alternate staffing model to be used with less RNs required.

SBGHC’s Chesley site currently has 10 Seniors Centre of Care beds for these patients who no longer require acute care and are awaiting placement in the community.

SBGHC has been facing significant shortages in health human resources for over five years, particularly in nursing, and in 2019 that lead to a reduction of hours of operation for the Chesley hospital Emergency Department.

With three recent RN departures impacting the current nursing schedule, SBGHC is facing critical nursing shortages over the holiday season, and well into the new year.

SBGHC reports a large number of unfilled shifts in the upcoming nursing schedule starting January 2nd.

“There are some non-negotiables that we must consider. We cannot provide care in a manner that is unsafe, and we cannot provide care that further deteriorates our staff, so there are choices required,” added SBGHC Board Chair Bill Heikkila. “We must implement choices that have the least harm, provide the greatest benefit to the community with the resources we have available, and ensure equity and fairness for four strong viable hospital sites across SBGHC.”