Many hospitals across Ontario are experiencing staffing shortages, and the availability of emergency department physicians is causing concern locally at Grey Bruce Hospital Service (GBHS) hospitals.
All six GBHS hospitals have 24/7 emergency departments (EDs), and for every 24 hour period, the corporation needs 15 physicians to staff those EDs. The GBHS hospitals have a roster of local physicians who fill the shifts, and are increasingly relying on physicians travelling here from outside the area to keep the EDs open 24/7.
“Heading into summer after a very challenging two years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to cover all of the open shifts, especially when this situation is happening in so many rural hospitals across the province,” said Gary Sims, GBHS President and CEO.
Nursing shortages are also causing pressures across many GBHS departments and hospitals.
EDs at other hospitals, including Huron Perth and South Bruce Grey, have experienced overnight closures recently due to a lack of nursing staff.
Rural GBHS hospitals typically see a very small number of patients between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. “Regardless of how few people come to the emergency department in the middle of the night, no one wants to close,” said Sims. “Our nurses and doctors are doing a tremendous job, and temporary service reductions are something we would only do as a last resort. Right now, we are putting contingency plans in place in case a last minute shift cannot be filled.”
Those contingency plans include enhanced recruitment efforts and working with Grey and Bruce EMS and Air Ornge to prepare for diversion should one of the EDs need to reduce its hours. An extensive communications plan has also been developed to ensure that the public is notified. When possible, notification of a temporary closure will be provided 48 hours in advance through radio, news sources, social media, and signage in the impacted area.
In emergency situations, GBHS is reminding the public to call 911, as ambulances will always transport patients to the best location for care.