South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) is continuing to experience a shortage of nursing staff at the Chesley hospital that are experienced and qualified to provide 24/7 Emergency Department (ED) coverage.
In order to safely operate the Emergency Department, the reduced hours of operation that were implemented in September 2019 will be extended beyond February 1, 2020. The Emergency Department will continue to operate between 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, seven days per week, until further notice.
“At this time, two part-time Registered Nurse (RN) vacancies remain at the Chesley site, which are currently posted externally,” explains Lynn Bos, Chief Nursing Officer (Interim). “We have had some success recruiting new nurses in the last couple of months, however, these nurses are new graduates, or have limited ED experience.”
In order to return to 24-hour ED service in Chesley, senior RNs with ED experience are required that are confident in their skills and abilities to safely operate the department during the overnight hours when there are limited staff in the building.
The situation that SBGHC is facing is not unique. The Clinton site of the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA) implemented reduced operating hours for its Emergency Department in December 2019 due to a nursing staff shortage.
Recruitment and retention of RNs and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) is 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.
Since the implementation of reduced operating hours for the Chesley Emergency Department in September 2019, over 85% of the volume of patients that are typically seen in a 24-hour period have been seen between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM.
Active recruitment and training will continue with the intent to resume 24-hour ED services as soon as staffing resources are stabilized. “Our goal is to get the Chesley emergency department operating again on a 24/7 basis,” says Michael Barrett, President and CEO. “A shortage of healthcare staff is driving this interim measure, and SBGHC is committed to keeping all four of our sites strong and viable. In Chesley, this commitment is evidenced by the $2.85M investment that was made in the facility earlier this year to replace the air handling equipment, install a full sprinkler system, and complete significant internal renovations in the ED and inpatient unit.”
A public meeting will be scheduled for the Chesley community later in January 2020.