A hospital in a western Manitoba community is expected to suspend its in-patient services and hospital admissions next month because of critically low nursing staff, Prairie Mountain Health confirmed on Wednesday.
Emergency department services will continue to be provided on a limited basis at the hospital in Grandview, about 160 kilometres northwest of Brandon, but in-patient services and admissions will be suspended for all of December, a spokesperson for the health authority said in an emailed statement to CBC.
Patients who need hospital admission will be transferred to a neighbouring facility.
The Prairie Mountain spokesperson said the hospital currently has only four of its 14 nursing positions filled.
There will only be two nurses available to work during the month of December, and one of two doctors will be leaving the Grandview Health Centre at the end of the year.
A December schedule for the emergency department will be posted to Prairie Mountain's website very soon, the spokesperson said.
Grandview, which has a population of just over 1,400, has struggled with staffing at its hospital for months. This summer, it was among several hospitals in the Prairie Mountain Health region that either closed their emergency rooms or reduced ER hours.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew raised the issue of Grandview's hospital staffing during Wednesday's question period at the legislature, asking Premier Heather Stefanson how her Progressive Conservative government will address the issue.
Stefanson said officials are working closely with other provinces to address the staffing challenges.
'Some people are very, very scared'
Sue Stirling, who co-ordinates the Grandview Healthcare Solutions citizen group, says she's heard varying degrees of concern from community members.
"Some people are very, very scared — those with chronic health conditions that have had to go into hospital periodically for very short periods of time are really, really worried about the situation," she said.
People who work in environments prone to accidents are very concerned about the ER not being open. Grandview has a significant number of elderly people who are also worried, Stirling said.
She's helped create a directory of 50 volunteers who, since July, have been providing support at the health centre's clinic.
They help manage paper flow, clean exam rooms and make sure the doctor can see the patient in a timely manner.
"But if we're going to go into longer days … we're going to need volunteers for the evening and things like that," she said.
The town's nearest 24/7 emergency department is in Dauphin, a more than 45-kilometre drive to the east, but it's also often busy, said Stirling.
"Our clinic has actually been seeing people who have sat in the ER in Dauphin for six hours and then come to us because they couldn't get seen," she said.
This past weekend, a young woman from Roblin came to Grandview's walk-in clinic because the emergency department in her home community — about 45 kilometres west of Grandview — wasn't open.
"We cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," said Stirling. "We have to do things differently."