BRUCE COUNTY – Consultant Carol De Rosie addressed Bruce County council’s executive committee at the April 21 meeting on the matter of the South Bruce Grey Health Centre’s (SBGHC) nursing shortage.
De Rosie told the committee members that in preparing her report, Critical Nursing Shortage at South Bruce Grey Health Centre: Multi-site, dated Feb. 16, 2022, she “spoke with many members of the community including nurses and former hospital board members.”
De Rosie didn’t go through the report for the committee. What she did was talk about the people she’d spoken to in preparing the report. She said she was asked to protect the identity of the nurses, both RNs and RPNs, who feared repercussions.
De Rosie told the committee, “You do not have a shortage of nurses, but a shortage of nurses who are willing to work in the environment they are working in.”
She spoke of nurses who, for family reasons, would have preferred to work on a casual basis – an option not open to them (until very recently).
She spoke of the lack of experience among nurses, noting many of the nurses working in the emergency department and intensive care unit are relatively new. “It used to be that nurses had to have three to five years of experience” to work in those departments, and now they’re there with six months’ experience.
De Rosie spoke of the number of vacancies posted on the health centre’s website. That includes two nurse-managers and 19 RN jobs (including full-time, part-time and casual).
During the question period that followed, County Coun. Robert Buckle, South Bruce, asked if there are any incentives to “get retired nurses back.”
De Rosie answered that “a lot of people think it is the money” but with nurses, the priority is safe patient care. She spoke of patient safety, or lack thereof, as one of the key things that have caused nurses to quit. The consultant told the story of a senior nurse who’d retired, and said she would not go back. But if a colleague asked her to come back in a crisis, she wouldn’t hesitate, “because that’s what nurses do.”
De Rosie noted the SBGHC senior leadership team lacks hospital experience, meaning they don’t know how to lead nurses. She said she was aware of other hospital organizations that reached out to SBGHC. From what she learned speaking with nurses and community members, De Rosie said “very little was done to recruit,” until recently.
As for SBGHC looking at the nursing schedule, De Rosie said, “If you want nurses to resign, mess with their schedule!”
County Coun. Chris Peabody, Brockton, thanked De Rosie for her presentation.
“This has been going on for five months now,” he said, referring to the overnight closure of the emergency department in Walkerton, in addition to the overnight closure of the Chesley ER that’s been going on for 32 months.
De Rosie’s report has been given to MPP Lisa Thompson, as well as Mayor Steve Hammell of Arran-Elderslie, Mayor Gerry Glover of Kincardine, and Peabody. It’s also been discussed with the Friends of the Walkerton and Chesley Hospitals group. De Rosie said she’s sharing it with “anyone I can.”
She went on to say that “nurses in Hanover are struggling… Kincardine is struggling… Kincardine will explode” with the influx of workers from the Bruce, and cottagers.
“I’m worried something terrible will happen,” she said.
Warden Janice Jackson, South Bruce Peninsula, reiterated what De Rosie said about the lack of experienced people in critical positions, patient safety, and “not enough nurses to support the situation,” calling it a “double-edged sword.”
Hammell raised the issue of the health care centre’s board of directors.
De Rosie said, “For them to allow this to happen… for 32 months… the board should resign. It never should have gotten this bad.”
She described the board as “not engaged in the community” and added that there’s an expectation the board chair and CEO would attend major hospital foundation events.
De Rosie said that despite amalgamation, the four hospital sites function as separate entities.
“There aren’t four ERs,” she said. “There’s one ER at four sites.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times