Temporary Full Closure of the Chesley Hospital Emergency Department (ED)

A temporary full closure of the Emergency Department (ED) at South Bruce Grey Health Centre’s (SBGHC) Chesley hospital site will be implemented for the next 8 weeks due to a critical shortage of nurses.

The ED will be fully closed for 8 weeks, starting on Friday, October 7th until Friday, December 2nd, 2022.  The inpatient unit, community lab collections and diagnostic imaging services in Chesley will remain open and operational for the community.

After reopening the Chesley ED to 24/7 service last spring, SBGHC made the decision at the start of September 2022 to close the ED overnight, but there have been multiple times over the last 3 weeks where the ED had to close for several full days on short notice due to the overall shortage of nurses.  These short notice decisions are not a sustainable approach for our staff or the communities we serve, and a further reduction in service is necessary for the safety of our patients and staff.

During this temporary closure, SBGHC will be evaluating the level of service that can be safely provided at the organization’s four hospital sites in the longer term with the staffing resources available, recognizing that the provincial health human resource (HHR) shortage will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. 

In order to keep services operational, SBGHC has relied on the use of agency nurses to fill vacant shifts.  This approach is not an ideal or preferred solution, as agency nurses are costly and not committed to our hospital sites.  In addition, our nurses do not feel valued when the agency nurses are making more money for doing the same work.  SBGHC would much rather be putting the extra cost spent on agency nurses into the pockets of our own staff, who have worked tirelessly to support our organization and our communities.  The unfortunate reality is that without using agency nurses at this time, the organization would be looking at additional closures and reductions in service.

Active recruitment continues for nurses to come and work at SBGHC, however, the pool of available nurses is very limited in the current environment across the province.

“The health human resources shortage in the province is very challenging for all health care organizations.  There are simply not enough licensed health care providers in the system – nurses, doctors, medical lab techs, etc. – to continue to provide the level of service that has been provided to date,” said Michael Barrett, SBGHC President & CEO.  “For nursing specifically, the shortage is being amplified by the incentive to work as an agency nurse.”

In the last month, CBC’s the National news broadcast has featured two stories on the staffing challenges in the health care system, from a rural perspective at the Chesley hospital and an urban perspective at Kingston General Hospital, both of which have been faced with recent ED closures.  The full story is available here https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/overworked-er-health-care-rural-urban-1.6602032 .

For more information on the service reductions at the Chesley hospital, a detailed Q&A is available on SBGHC’s website: https://www.sbghc.on.ca/hospital-service-reductions-due-to-nursing-shortages.

A virtual community information session has been scheduled on Tuesday, October 18th at 7:00 PM where SBGHC staff and physicians will be on hand to answer questions and provide information to the community.  More details about the information session will be circulated next week.

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