Extended overnight emergency closure predictable, says West Prince chamber

·2 min read
People coming to work at Western Hospital need to have a better idea what to expect, says Kester Nurse. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)
People coming to work at Western Hospital need to have a better idea what to expect, says Kester Nurse. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)

An extension of the closure of the collaborative emergency centre at Western Hospital, which provided overnight emergency care for the people of western P.E.I., does not come as a surprise to the West Prince Chamber of Commerce.

"We are facing a major labour crisis," said Kester Nurse, the labour market resource for the West Prince Chamber of Commerce.

"[We have] been forecasting, if you will, the problems that we are now seeing in the labour market, especially as it pertains to health care, unfortunately."

The CEC at Western Hospital was shut down on Aug. 1 due to staffing shortages. It was supposed to reopen Thursday, but instead the shutdown was extended until at least the end of October. Staffing remains a problem, Health P.E.I. said.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

Tammy Rix, CEO of the West Prince Chamber of Commerce, said while the extension of the closure is not a surprise, it is a serious problem.

Without the CEC, the nearest emergency department is an hour away, at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside. That's a worry for older residents, families with younger children, as well as people who work in jobs such as farming and fishing where injuries are possible.

"Our community and our citizens have been very, you know, distraught over this," said Rix.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

"It's a major service that we want to have in our region for our families and so it's not good and it's unfortunate that we're having to deal with this."

Solving the problem requires a different kind of approach to recruiting, said Nurse, rather than simply casting as wide a net as possible.

"People that they're trying to recruit have to know what rural life is about and be prepared," he said.

Recruiting without that in mind leads to a risk that health professionals who do come will not stay, he said.

'High on its expectations'

Liberal health critic Robert Henderson, and an MLA in West Prince, is also not surprised by the extension of the closure.

It follows a pattern common with the provincial government, he said.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

"Once again the government has been high on its expectations, great on its announcements, but the deliverables never occur," said Henderson.

Henderson is calling on government to come up with a real workable plan, and to share details of the plan with the people of West Prince.

Health P.E.I. said it will be reviewing the model of care at the CEC, and that the closure could be extended beyond the end of October.