November 22, 2021
Dear friends and neighbours of Haliburton County,
We want to share with you some of the obstacles facing our organization and the impacts it may have on you.
Our continued challenges around staffing and nursing capacity mean that, in the coming weeks, it is very likely we will need to reduce service at one of our Emergency Departments, including closures during certain hours and days.
We want to prepare you, as much as possible, for this in advance. The rest of this message includes more detail about what may happen, why it is happening, the factors we will consider in our decision-making process, and what you can expect in the days and weeks ahead.
What May Happen
Although we have cast a net far and wide, seeking support from staffing agencies across the country and other healthcare organizations across Ontario, health human resource issues are everywhere.
If we are unable to find adequate staffing, we will have to close one of the Emergency Departments during a set number of hours and days. This situation may persist for some time and we may not be able to forecast when we can resume full operation at both Emergency Departments.
Why Is This Happening?
We have been speaking about our staffing challenges throughout the pandemic, but health human resource shortages pre-date the pandemic and exist across the province, country, and worldwide.
It has been a particular problem in rural communities, and there are other locations in Ontario that have been forced to reduce services due to a shortage of nursing staff. This has been compounded by more typical staffing challenges, including retirements, injuries, parental leaves, and health issues, as well as factors influenced by the pandemic, including burnout and stress.
It is important to note that this current staff shortage is not related to our vaccination policy; rather, these issues have been building and we have been trying to address them for some time.
Our Decision-Making Process
No decision has been made about which Emergency Department will need to reduce services.
Patient and staff safety has been and will continue to be at the forefront of our discussions. We will also continue to be led by our values of compassion, accountability, integrity, and respect.
To make this difficult decision, we will consider:
• Typical volumes of patient visits to each Emergency Department;
• Current staff schedules, gaps, and staffing models;
• The geographic location of each Emergency Department in relation to communities across Haliburton County; and
• Feedback from our partners, including but not limited to the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health East, and Haliburton County Paramedic Service.