Local News News Walkerton Herald-Times

Chesley hospital emergency department’s reduced hours will remain until further notice

South Bruce Grey Health Centre - Chesley site (SBGHC photo)

CHESLEY – South Bruce Grey Health Centre announced on Jan. 8 that the period of reduced hours of operation for the Chesley hospital’s emergency department (ED) will continue until further notice.

In a press release, SBGHC stated that they are continuing to experience a shortage of nursing staff at the Chesley hospital that are experienced and qualified to provide 24/7 ED coverage.

In order to safely operate the emergency department, the emergency department will continue to operate between the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. These are the same hours that were first implemented in September 2019.

“At this time, two part-time Registered Nurse (RN) vacancies remain at the Chesley site, which are currently posted externally,” said Lynn Bos, interim chief nursing officer for SBGHC. “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 the press release, SBGHC stated that 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 implemented reduced operating hours for its ED in December 2019 due to a nursing staff shortage.

Officials say that 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 ED in September 2019, over 85 per cent of the volume of patients that are typically seen in a 24-hour period have been seen between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

SBGHC says that 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,” said Michael Barrett, president and CEO of SBGHC. “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 $2.85 million 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 this month.