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Local MPPs say addressing hospital staff shortage is a priority

Ted Arnott and Matthew Rae both said the province is working with healthcare partners to come up with solutions
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Groves Memorial Community Hospital. Keegan Kozolanka/EloraFergusToday file photo

WELLINGTON COUNTY – With Wellington County’s three hospitals having faced some form of service reduction over the past months, local MPPs stress the province is working on solutions to address staffing issues at the root of the problem. 

Most recently, Groves Memorial Community Hospital (GMCH) in Aboyne had to redirect its obstetrics (OB) from July 29 to Aug. 1 due to staff shortages, according to a news release. 

This is on top of a summerlong closure of the OB departments at Wellington County’s two other hospitals — Palmerston and District Hospital and Louise Marshall Hospital. 

Mount Forest’s Louise Marshall Hospital also saw an emergency department closed overnight on July 16 and 17. 

The Ontario Nurses’ Association said in a statement at least 14 Ontario hospitals had cuts or closures of beds and units over the August long weekend and called on the province to work with them to address this problem.

Ted Arnott, Wellington-Halton Hills MPP, said in an email statement the province’s health system is facing “pressures due to the challenge of maintaining required staffing levels.”

He said the Ministry of Health is working with healthcare partners such as the hospital corporations, independent regulatory colleges and health sector unions to identify solutions both short-term and long-term. 

Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae also said he’s committed to working with local hospitals and health teams to address this issue but noted it is not a new one.

“It has been an issue for well over a decade now, well before the pandemic but the pandemic has obviously exacerbated this,” Rae said. “People continue to retire obviously and we have an older demographic.”

Rae said he thinks a program like the Community Commitment Program, which is set to receive an additional $142 million in funding over two years, as something that could have an impact at local hospitals.

Through this program, eligible healthcare graduates would receive tuition reimbursement if they commit to practicing in rural or underserved areas for two years.

He noted health care education takes many years from beginning to end and saw a potential to address gaps in the short term with people who are already trained internationally. 

“We’re also working with the colleges of nurses, I know minister (Sylvia) Jones is, around internationally trained nurses and other healthcare professionals to get them into our system quicker to meet the needs in our healthcare system,” Rae said.

Arnott noted Ontarians should still feel confident they’ll receive health care services they need even as appointments have returned to pre-pandemic levels. 

“We should all want to thank our healthcare workers for their dedication, ensuring that 89 per cent of high-urgency patients finished their emergency visit within target times,” Arnott wrote. 

Arnott said legislature resumes sitting on Aug. 8 and he hoped to speak with the health minister to bring the community’s concerns to her attention.