Twelve hospital beds have been closed at the Ponoka General Hospital and eight beds have been closed at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury due to staff shortages in the David Thompson Health Region.
Denise McBain, senior vice-president of health services said that seven or eight were closed starting in December and the rest have closed over time because of the lack of inability to recruit vacant nursing positions.
“This is a long-term problem and we are not optimistic that we are going to be able to solve it in weeks or months,” said McBain. “There are many initiatives underway that will take a year to come to fruition.”
DTHR has recruitment teams who have been going to recruitment fairs provincially and internationally. They are also offering financial incentives that include things like bursaries, tuition reimbursements and moving allowances.
Site leader for the PGH Sue Mackenzie said that they are not turning people away and currently the wait time to see a doctor is approximately 30 minutes.
She notes that the hospital is also doing well because of the renovations that were completed last summer. They now have nine treatment areas compared to only five before the renovations.
“We have been better utilizing the 25 beds that we have and we are being more efficient,” said Mackenzie. “We have surges where it is busy and our emergency room gets backed up but the doctors are being quite good about discharging appropriately.”
Mackenzie thinks that the shortage is affecting the hospital but that all of the staff are working very hard to keep up their high standard.
“I think when there is a staff shortage and beds close everyone gets nervous but the staff have hung in there and I think the morale is really high,” said Mackenzie. “We know there is a shortage everywhere and I think all considering the staff is doing very well.”
The shortages have affected the entire region as the DTHR announced on April 9 that it will be temporarily rescheduling some non-emergency elective surgeries in Red Deer. In the past few months the staffing shortage has also forced the closure of 25 beds across the region; in Red Deer three beds have closed since last spring and since last fall two beds have been closed in Drayton Valley. Currently in the DTHR there are more than 300 full and part time vacancies in its workforce of approximately 9,000 employees.