Reduced operating hours at the Chesley hospital's emergency department will extend past Feb. 1 due to an ongoing shortage of experienced nursing staff.
South Bruce Grey Health Centre's interim Chief Nursing Officer Lynn Bos says in a statement while they have had some success recruiting new nurses in the last couple of months, most are new graduates or have limited emergency department experience.
"In order to return to 24-hour (emergency department) service in Chesley, senior registered nurses with emergency department 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," a South Bruce Grey Health Centre statement explains.
Since September 2019, the Chesley hospital's emergency department has been operating 12 hours daily -- between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. -- instead of 24/7, due to the nursing staff shortage. Since then, over 85 per cent of the volume of patients typically seen over a 24-hour period have been seen during the reduced, 12-hour window, according to the hospital organization.
South Bruce Grey Health Centre president and CEO Michael Barrett says the goal is to get the Chesley emergency department operating again on a 24/7 basis. Active recruitment and training will continue to achieve this.
"A shortage of healthcare staff is driving this interim measure, and SBGHC is committed to keeping all four of our sites strong and viable," Barrett explains.
South Bruce Grey Health Centre is not the only rural hospital organization facing staffing challenges. The Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance made a similar move to implement reduced emergency department hours in December 2019 due to a nursing staff shortage.
"Recruitment and retention of registered nurses and registered practicial nurses is very challenging in rural communities," a South Bruce Grey Health Centre statement explains. "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."
A public meeting concerning the Chesley hopsital will be scheduled sometime later this month.