Chesley community updated on emergency department situation

·2 min read

CHESLEY – Progress continues to be made in resolving the situation that led to the partial closure of the Chesley hospital’s emergency department. However, it’s not enough yet to restore the department to full 24/7 operation.

Members of the community had the opportunity to attend a virtual meeting on Jan. 27 about the emergency department situation. Among those who joined hospital, board and health care representatives were Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker, and Mayor Steve Hammell. In all, 76 people participated in the meeting.

While the news wasn’t what the community had hoped for, there was room for optimism.

South Bruce Grey Health Centre has been working with the Huron Perth Health Care Alliance – the hospital in Clinton is in the same situation as the one in Chesley, a shortage of nurses with the experience and expertise to safely operate the emergency department overnight.

Hospital CEO Michael Barrett said the situation isn’t restricted to this area. Toronto’s four big hospitals have 940 nursing vacancies, he said, and Grand River in Kitchener is short 160 RNs and RPNs.

The good news is that the two hospital groups have been asked to submit a joint proposal for Clinton and Chesley. “There is interest from the ministry,” he said.

The proposal that’s been put together was described as “robust” and includes training, orientation and support for the emergency department nursing staff.

Angela Stanley, chief nursing executive, gave a detailed description of changes that have already been made to increase the efficiency of the nursing staff and provide them with the right training.

The nursing situation has improved, she said, from short three (full-time equivalent) RN positions in September 2019, to short 1.5 in January 2021. It’s not enough to reopen the emergency department 24/7, and the hospital board won’t do that until the nursing situation has stabilized enough to eliminate the possibility of another closure once it’s reopened.

Dr. Jacqui Wong, physician site chief, and Dr. Adam Winterton, Chesley physician, commented on the positive impact of changes that have been made, especially the addition of the charge nurse position, and spoke of the improved atmosphere in terms of teamwork and working environment. Wong thanked the community for their support.

Barrett stated, in response to a question about a worst-case scenario, that, “We’re not looking at other scenarios, we’re looking at reopening.”

Board chair John Gilbert added, “It’s on the agenda at every board meeting.” As far as he’s concerned, it’s not a question of “if” but “when.”

The board pledged to keep the community informed until the situation is resolved and the emergency department resumes 24/7 service. Another meeting is being scheduled for April.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times