SBGHC Actively Working to Restore Services

South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) is actively working to restore services in the Walkerton and Chesley hospitals following a reduction of services implemented in December 2021 due to nursing staff shortages.  

As of December 27th, 2021, the Walkerton hospital Emergency Department (ED) has been closed overnight from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM, operating from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  In addition, the Inpatient Unit at the Chesley site of SBGHC has been converted to a 20-bed Alternate Level of Care (ALC) Unit to allow for an alternate staffing model to be used with less RNs required.  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 supports).  The hours of the Chesley ED were previously reduced in September 2019 due to a nursing shortage.

“Our Board of Directors fully recognizes the impact that the reduction in services has had on our communities, and are committed to restoring services as soon as we possibly can,” said SBGHC Board Chair Bill Heikkila. “We continue to attach considerable urgency to this issue, and are taking significant steps to return our four hospital sites to full service.”

In September 2019, a recruitment and retention action plan was first developed following the reduction of hours in the Chesley hospital ED.  The plan has now been updated with additional immediate actions to address the nursing shortage at SBGHC, and ensure the return of SBGHC’s four sites to full service.

Since the reduction of services in December 2021, the following immediate actions have been taken to restore services at SBGHC, which are detailed in the recruitment and retention action plan available on SBGHC’s website.

  • 3 full time single site Registered Nurse (RN) positions with un-mastered lines posted (2 in Walkerton, 1 in Chesley – these are positions are over and above normal staffing complement).
  • Agency RNs have been secured to cover some shifts in Walkerton and Chesley.
  • Addition of Casual RN language to the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) Collective Agreement.
  • Utilizing Registered Midwives to stabilize staffing in the Family Birthing Centre.
  • Nursing externship positions posted for RN students and Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs).
  • Application to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) to participate in the Supervised Practice Experience Partnership has been submitted and approved. This new initiative supported by the Ministry of Health will provide eligible applicants (i.e. internationally educated nurses) with an opportunity to meet their evidence of practice and language proficiency requirements and to become registered.
  • Recruitment and retention focus groups with front-line nursing staff and leadership (first sessions completed January 17th-20th).

In addition to these recruitment initiatives, the plan details a comprehensive list of both existing and new retention initiatives, including a third-party review of scheduling practice to identify deficiencies and opportunities for improvement. 

With an overall shortage of nurses across the province, many hospitals are challenged to recruit and retain nurses.  SBGHC is taking the necessary steps to set the hospital apart from other hospitals, and ensure that the organization is a place where nurses want to work.

In addition to the provincial nursing shortage, there are significant capacity challenges occurring across the province as a result of the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also ongoing challenges with not being able to access long-term care for patients who are awaiting placement.  As of January 21st, 2022, 22 of SBGHC’s 60 beds are occupied by alternate level of care (ALC) patients who do not require acute care, but cannot be transferred to their next destination due to staffing and capacity challenges in other parts of the system.  

“SBGHC is committed to having four strong and viable hospital sites in southern Grey and Bruce Counties,” said Michael Barrett, SBGHC President and CEO.  “Nursing recruitment and retention is the immediate and first priority of the SBGHC Board and Leadership Team, and the hospital is taking the necessary steps to resolve this issue, and restore these critical services in our communities.”

Engagement sessions with the Walkerton and Chesley communities to review and discuss the recruitment and retention action plan will be scheduled in the following weeks.  To submit questions or request a presentation to your community group, please contact Meghan Legge, Manager, Communications, Engagement and Patient Experience (

SBGHC’s nursing recruitment and retention action plan, and a Q&A regarding hospital service reductions, is available here:

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