News Release - Walkerton Hospital Emergency Department Reduced Hours of Operation

Updated December 27, 2021

Why is the Walkerton hospital in this situation and other local hospital sites are not?

Nursing staff shortages are not unique to SBGHC, or the Walkerton hospital.  There is an overall shortage of nurses in the province, and the large majority of hospitals in Ontario are experiencing staffing challenges.

Does the Emergency Department required specially trained nurses?

Yes. Working in a small, rural emergency department requires extensive training and orientation.

Will the Family Birthing Centre in Walkerton still be operational overnight?

Yes, the Family Birthing Centre will remain operational 24/7 and continue to support moms and their babies.

Will the CT scanner in Walkerton still be operational overnight?

Yes, the CT scanner will remain operational to provide after-hours coverage for the Walkerton inpatient unit, and emergency/inpatient coverage for other SBGHC sites.

Did the geographical makeup of SBGHC’s Board of Directors have an impact on the decision to reduce operating hours in the Walkerton ED?

SBGHC’s Board of Directors is a skills-based, dedicated and passionate group of volunteers that is committed to ensuring we maintain four strong viable hospital sites in our communities.  The decision to reduce hours at the Walkerton ED was made based solely on the number of vacant RN shifts at the Walkerton site, and number of RNs that would be freed up to fill vacant shifts as a result of this change. At the present time, SBGHC’s Board does not have a Director from the Brockton area, despite extensive recruitment efforts in the community.

Does SBGHC have casual RNs that could be used to fill shifts?

In the collective agreement which was most recently negotiated between SBGHC and the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), the agreement does not currently have language for casual Registered Nurse (RN) positions.  Given the current environment, work has already begun to revise the agreement to allow for casual employment of RNs.

Can SBGHC offer incentives to recruit nurses?

Offering incentives to recruit nurses is outside of the collective agreement we have in place with our union partners, and also outside of an agreement that SBGHC has with other South West regional hospitals not to offer incentives.  Recruiting nurses away from other partner organizations will only create staffing pressures somewhere else within the system.  The nursing staff shortage is a system-wide issue that requires a system-wide response.

Updated December 20, 2021

When will the Emergency Department hours be reduced?

  • The reduced hours of operation will go into effect Monday, December 27th at 8:00 PM.
  • The Walkerton Emergency Department will be open daily from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and closed from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM.
  • EMS (Ambulance) will be on bypass after 8:00 PM to transport patients who require Emergency Department services to the nearest 24/7 ER.

Where can I go to access emergency services between 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM?

If you are in need of immediate medical attention, call 9-1-1.

The closest 24-hour Emergency Departments to Walkerton are listed below.

Hanover & District Hospital
90-7th Avenue
519-364-2340
12 KM
South Bruce Grey Health Centre – Kincardine
1199 Queen St.
519-396-3331
43 KM
South Bruce Grey Health Centre – Durham
320 College Street
519-369-2340
28 KM
Palmerston & District Hospital
500 Whites Road
519-343-2030
44 KM
Wingham & District Hospital
270 Carling Terrace
519-357-3210
39 KM
Grey Bruce Health Services – Southampton
340 High St.
519-797-3230
51 KM

 

Are the reduced operating hours a permanent decision?

No. Reducing the Emergency Department operating hours in Walkerton is an interim decision to allow time for the nursing staffing complement to be stabilized.  Active recruitment and training will continue with the intent to resume 24-hour ER services as soon as possible.

Why is it difficult to recruit nursing staff?

There is an overall shortage of nurses in the province, which is being compounded by burn-out after 20 months of navigating the pandemic, the unique nature of rural nursing practice, a younger work force that has resulted in a large number of maternity leaves, and more nursing opportunities available across the system that provide a more attractive schedule (i.e. Monday to Friday without evenings and weekends).

Recruitment and retention of Registered Nurses (RNs) is also very challenging in rural communities. Nurses are required to develop a high degree of competency in a number of clinical domains and specialties, and new graduates can often be unprepared to work in a rural setting without significant orientation and mentorship.

What is causing the shortage of nursing staff?

There is an overall shortage of nurses in the province, which is being compounded by burn-out after 20 months of navigating the pandemic, the unique nature of rural nursing practice, a younger work force that has resulted in a large number of maternity leaves, and more nursing opportunities available across the system that provide a more attractive schedule (i.e. Monday to Friday without evenings and weekends).

Did SBGHC terminate staff that have not received the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. SBGHC has not yet implemented a mandatory vaccination policy. SBGHC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy was implemented on September 7th, 2021 for staff and professional staff that provides three options:

·         submit proof of full vaccination against COVID-19;

·         submit written proof of a medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19;

·         complete a mandatory education module, and rapid antigen testing must be completed within 48h prior to coming to work.

Failure to comply with the policy means that staff would be removed from the upcoming schedule, and physician privileges would be suspended.

All new staff, physicians, students and volunteers must be vaccinated. Currently, 95% of staff are fully vaccinated, and 96% have received at least one dose.

On average, how many ED patients in Walkerton will be affected by this change?

The highest volume of patients (82%) are seen during the hours of 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  Typically, the volume of patients seen in the Emergency Department at the Walkerton site during the overnight hours are very low. During the overnight hours between 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM, the Walkerton ED sees an average of 4.6 patients/night.

Chesley Hospital ALC Unit

Updated December 20, 2021

What is an ALC patient?

Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients no longer require acute care and are awaiting placement in the community (i.e. long-term care, group home, home with home care support).

SBGHC’s Chesley site currently has a total of 18 beds with 10 Seniors Centre of Care beds that care for this patient population, along with 8 acute care beds.  It is intended that the Chesley hospital will transition to become a 20 ALC bed unit.

Why are ALC patients in hospital?

SBGHC has on average 20-22 of its 60 inpatient beds occupied by patients that are designated ALC.

Access to placement within the community has become more challenging over the last 20 months.  To address infection control requirements, COVID guidelines now restrict long-term care (LTC) homes ward rooms to 2 residents, where previously they would have been home to 3 or 4 residents. This change has removed 147 LTC beds across Grey Bruce, resulting in less destinations available for patients who have finished their stay in hospital.

In addition, the staff and nursing challenges are also impacting the contracted service provider organizations (SPOs) which means the SPOs have less staff available to provide home care, making it more challenging for the hospital to discharge patients home.

Does this make the hospital a long-term care home?

No. SBGHC’s Chesley site will continue to operate as a hospital with a 12-hour emergency department, 20-bed ALC unit, and Laboratory/Diagnostic Imaging services.

SBGHC intends to return the Chesley hospital to a hospital with acute beds in the future.

How will this change free up staff?

ALC patients do not require acute care, which allows more RPNs and PSWs to be used in the staffing model, and less RN coverage is required.

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