Emergency Room staffing crisis in Red Lake covered by New York Times

·2 min read

RED LAKE, Ont. – An Emergency Room staffing crisis in Red Lake has received international coverage on the website of the New York Times.

A Sept. 14 Times article about a crisis of Canadian ER closures led with details of challenges at the Emergency Department at the Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital in Red Lake.

“It was a surprise to hear from the New York Times,” said hospital president Sue LeBeau, who is quoted in the piece.

“I guess they had seen my Twitter feed back in March and followed up this many months later – probably because we were the first [Emergency Department closed] and we did call attention to the health human resource shortage at that time.”

As the hospital faced ER closures, LeBeau had posted a picture to Twitter showing a hospital sign covered by a piece of cardboard due to the closure.

“To me, that photo said a big chunk of the story, it said more than words could,' she said.

Friends and others were astonished to see the story in the New York Times said LeBeau.

“I had said when I came to Red Lake that I wouldn’t be a quiet voice in the corner… but I would still want to contribute to more systemic change and systemic improvements,” she said.

“This was an opportunity to do that – to make sure small rural communities do have a voice, that there's an understanding that an emergency department closure in a rural area has implications that are worthy of attention and work.”

LeBeau said she's grateful hospitals in the Northwest managed to get through the summer without an ER shutdown situation.

That didn't come without careful planning, she noted, crediting stakeholders including doctors, hospital leaders, EMS, and the Ornge air ambulance service who attended weekly "situation table" meetings to determine how to deploy resources.

“I think the key here has been collaboration and willingness to work as a system," she said. "This is a big mountain to move."

LeBeau said she's optimistic that "we’re having the conversations of moving in the right direction.”

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source