Here’s a first: A Huron County hospital (I think it’s near London, Ontario) will be cutting back on emergency room hours because it can’t hire enough nurses.
The emergency room hours will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Seaforth Community Hospital, starting Feb. 7. Any emergencies after that will have to be handled at other hospitals.
This is all according to a story in the London Free Press (you can read the full story here).
It’s a crazy story, and one that will have many ramifications. First off, will be people who need to get to a hospital quick. If the other hospital is 10 minutes away, that might be too long for someone who’s had a heart attack or been in a car accident.
Also, this will put a strain on the other hospitals, leading to longer wait times, staff burnout and frustration on every level.
Seaforth is the first hospital to have to do this, but as the story says, it could be the first of many.
Hospitals across the country are having problems hiring nurses. Many nurses head down to the U.S. to work. Some get burned out and retire. Many of them go to work in a private practice where the hours are better.
According to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNA), there were 142,898 nurses registered with the college in 2008, and the number of graduating nurses rose each year from 2001 to 2004 by more than 100 per cent. The high was 6,437 in 2004. However, that number quickly decreased, going down to 3,270 in 2005 and only 2,500 in 2006. (You can read the report here).
Why the decrease? Your guess is as good as mine. The report is just statistics, with no real explanation on what it means or why the numbers fluctuate. I don’t know if it has to do with government funding, or if it’s just a blip on the radar.
But I think a nursing or doctor shortage is something that can’t be allowed to happen. Even with the economy going in the tank, the government needs to step forward and find some way to get more nurses in Ontario. Whether that be figuring out a way to convince more people to study nursing, or trying to convince nurses from other provinces/countries to move here, I’ll leave that up to the politicians.
But something needs to be done. And it needs to be done sooner than later.