SBGHC to Reopen Key Services Beginning May 9th

At a special meeting on April 25th, 2022, South Bruce Grey Health Centre’s (SBGHC) Board of Directors approved a plan to reopen services at both the Walkerton and Chesley hospitals.

The amount and type of staffing needed to reopen services has been thoroughly assessed, and with our dedicated staff team, along with the use of agency nurses, casual nurses, student externs and registered midwives, the Walkerton hospital Emergency Department (ED) will resume 24-hour service on Monday, May 9th, 2022.  The use of agency nurses, casual nurses, student externs and registered midwives were all implemented as part of SBGHC’s Recruitment and Retention Action Plan which was released in January 2022.

In addition, on May 9th, 2022, the Inpatient Unit at the Chesley site of SBGHC will return to 8 acute care beds and 10 Seniors Centre of Care beds.  4 of these 8 acute beds were previously reopened on March 21st, 2022.

SBGHC then plans to reopen the Chesley ED to 24-hour service on June 15th, 2022, which is the start of the next nursing schedule.  The stability of staffing will be monitored over the next 5 weeks, and the hospital will then finalize and confirm the date of reopening of the Chesley ED once this review has been completed.  The SBGHC Board of Directors will confirm the date at its regular meeting on June 1st, 2022.

Readiness for the reopening of services in Walkerton and Chesley has been measured against two key factors – the ability to adequately staff all nursing departments across the four hospital sites, and the ability to grant vacation in the amount that meets or exceeds the entitlement of each bargaining unit.  At the present time, staffing has been secured for the nursing schedule beginning on May 8th, 2022 through Labour Day, and the majority of summer vacation requests have been approved, including 100% of requests for full time nurses wanting to take two seven-day periods of vacation in the summer months.

In the short term, SBGHC’s plan to reopen services is heavily reliant on the use of agency nurses to stabilize staffing levels, while new and novice staff gain experience, and existing staff are not being stretched above their committed number of hours, and are able to take vacation.  In the longer term, SBGHC’s commitment to training and education, and efforts to recruit new RNs to the organization will ensure a more stabilized staffing pool, and the gradual move away from the use of agency nurses. 

This plan does not come without risk, including additional expense associated with the use of agency nurses.  And more importantly, there is a chance of a future temporary, time-limited reduction in service should the agency nurse pool dry up, and/or the provincial Health Human Resource (HHR) situation deteriorate further.

“I am very pleased that SBGHC will again be providing 24/7 service to all our communities.  We will be closely monitoring the reopening plan to ensure we do it in a safe manner where we can continue to provide high quality care to the patients we serve,” said Michael Barrett, SBGHC President & CEO.  “I want to emphasize that the risk of further reductions is very real, but we are proceeding knowing that we run this risk.  This approach is different than the approach we have taken since the reduction of services in the Chesley ED in 2019, where we indicated that we would not reopen if there was any future risk of having to close again.  With the ongoing critical nursing shortage continuing to be felt across the Province, we have decided that it is important to our communities to return all of our operations to 24/7 service if we can do it now, even if there is a chance of a time-limited reduction in service in the future.”

“The same non-negotiables that resulted in the Board’s decision to reduce services in September 2019 and again in December 2021 are still at play. We cannot provide care in a manner that is unsafe, and we cannot provide care that further deteriorates our staff,” said SBGHC Board Chair Bill Heikkila.  “It has been a significant effort to get to this point, and we are very happy to restore these critical services in our communities.  However, we are remaining cautiously optimistic as the provincial health human resource situation remains challenging.”

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