Simcoe County hospitals deal with dire staffing shortages

Health officials say painful hospital wait times spanning an average of three to five hours will only worsen with critical staffing shortages.

"This is certainly a crisis we're experiencing across the region," said Matthew Lawson, Georgian Bay General Hospital President and CEO. "Short-term, we're in for a rough summer."

Lawson said the Midland hospital has had to make adjustments, like closing beds due to significant staffing voids, and with patient demand not slowing, existing staff are feeling the pressure.

"We're absolutely at fatigue and burnout," he said. "We're upwards of 300 people a day, not to mention the over 100 patients that are admitted at any given time."

Lawson said the hospital resorted to bringing in temporary agency nursing staff. "That also is quite expensive, so it's not ideal. We would love to have our building fully staffed."

The situation is similar in Alliston, where Stevenson Memorial Hospital staff is dealing with a 30 to 40 per cent increase in patients this month, despite being desperately short on nurses.

The hospital's chief nursing executive encourages residents seeking medical attention to try the Cough, Cold and Flu Clinic or "go to your physician when you're able... to your nurse practitioners."

Many overburdened hospitals rely on the region's largest facility, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), to help carry the load.

"We're very aware that our workforce is very tired, burnt out, stressed. It's been difficult," noted Darrell Sewell, RVH Chief Human Resource Officer.

The Barrie hospital has recruited 157 new nurses in the past six months after 113 left.

Sewell praised those working at RVH, who he said have put in long hours and been shifted to various units to help cover where necessary.

"The way that they have stepped up, shown up, the flexibility, the resiliency to move into spaces and provide care in units," he noted. "They rise to the occasion."

Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital's President and CEO Carmine Stumpo said they need nurses and personal support workers as the city grows and visitors make the Sunshine City their summer destination.

"This is all making it busier at a time when our staffing isn't what we hope it would be," he said.

"We're looking forward to solutions, working with our community, with the government around getting more nurses, more physicians and more staff in general within the hospital sector," Lawson stated in Midland.

Despite the dire staffing shortages across the region, health care officials say those seeking urgent medical care shouldn't hesitate to visit a local hospital.