Com­mu­nity of Leader still waiting for re­open­ing of emer­gency ser­vices

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Lieben­berg

mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

The de­lay in the re­open­ing of emer­gency ser­vices at the Leader and Dis­trict In­te­grated Health­care Fa­cil­ity due to staff shortages has caused dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tion in the com­mu­nity.

The com­mu­nity has been with­out emer­gency ser­vices since mid-May due to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Saskatchew­an Health Au­thor­ity (SHA) COVID-19 readi­ness plan and the emer­gency depart­ment was sched­uled to re­open on June 16.

How­ever, the SHA an­nounced on June 15 that the dis­rup­tion to emer­gency ser­vices at the Leader and Dis­trict In­te­grated Health­care Fa­cil­ity has been ex­tended for an un­de­ter­mined pe­riod while re­cruit­ment con­tin­ues for com­bined lab­o­ra­tory and X-ray tech­ni­cians to sup­port emer­gency and acute ser­vices.

Leader Mayor Craig Ton­de­vold said the com­mu­nity was look­ing for­ward to the re­open­ing of emer­gency ser­vices and they are very dis­ap­pointed with the de­lay.

“We are frus­trated, be­cause we have a fa­cil­ity here that the tax­pay­ers are pay­ing for, we’re pay­ing for, and we can’t use it,” he said.

The con­struc­tion of a new in­te­grated health­care fa­cil­ity in Leader was com­pleted in 2018, and the com­mu­nity con­trib­uted 20 per cent of the cost of this $12.1 mil­lion project. They there­fore want to see the emer­gency depart­ment re­open as soon as pos­si­ble.

“They say we’ll never lose the ser­vices, but right now we just want to get it back up and run­ning for now,” he said.

In the mean­time, the res­i­dents from the Leader area have to call 9-1-1 in case of an emer­gency or they have to visit the emer­gency depart­ment in Kin­der­s­ley, Maple Creek, or Swift Cur­rent.

Ton­de­vold said the dis­tance to the near­est emer­gency depart­ment is a real con­cern to res­i­dents.

“It could make a big dif­fer­ence,” he noted. “It’s an hour and a half ride, what­ever way you go, it’s an hour and a half drive. In an hour and a half, a lot can hap­pen to a per­son if they’re in des­per­ate need.”

The Leader and Dis­trict In­te­grated Health­care Fa­cil­ity was one of 12 com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals in Saskatchew­an that con­verted to al­ter­nate level of care sites in May, which re­quired the tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion of emer­gency room ser­vices in these fa­cil­i­ties.

This con­ver­sion of com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals to al­ter­nate level of care sites took place to build ca­pac­ity within the health sys­tem for any po­ten­tial surge in COVID-19 cases.

Ac­cord­ing to Ton­de­vold that ar­range­ment did not make sense to the com­mu­nity, be­cause there was no ac­tual surge in COVID-19 cases.

“If we have a ma­jor out­break of COVID in this area, we would lose our emer­gency ser­vices, be­cause the doc­tors would prob­a­bly move to where they’re deal­ing with the COVID, which was go­ing to be Maple Creek, and we were fine with that,” he men­tioned. “But then in May they shut our ser­vices, but we had no COVID here and they shut the ser­vices down be­cause of train­ing, they said. So we re­ally had a hard time with that too, be­cause there was noth­ing go­ing on, there’s no­body sick, and they’re shut­ting us down.”

There have been tem­po­rary dis­rup­tions to emer­gency ser­vices at the Leader fa­cil­ity in the past, but never for such a long time.

“We’ve had eight hours of dis­rup­tion, but rarely do we ever lose weeks,” he said. “It seems like ev­ery time we have a short­age of staff, they have to shut down our emer­gency.

Ton­de­vold is con­cerned about the dif­fi­cul­ties ex­pe­ri­enced by the SHA to re­cruit and keep staff in Leader.

“They tend to use a lot of part-time peo­ple, and so peo­ple that are work­ing in these jobs aren’t look­ing for part-time work, they’re look­ing for full-time work,” he said. “So as soon as some­thing full-time comes up, they’re gone. So this could be an is­sue.”

The SHA pro­vided an e-mailed re­sponse to the Prairie Post with re­gard to the on­go­ing dis­rup­tion of emer­gency ser­vices at the Leader and Dis­trict In­te­grated Health­care Fa­cil­ity.

“We re­gret that we are not able to re­open the Leader Emer­gency Depart­ment (ED) as sched­uled,” the e-mail stated. “Re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als to work in EDs in ru­ral and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties is a chal­lenge across the coun­try. We re­main com­mit­ted to meet­ing this chal­lenge and will be re­sum­ing ED ser­vices in Leader upon suc­cess­ful re­cruit­ment of Com­bined Lab X-ray Tech­ni­cians.”

The state­ment noted that many vari­ables have to be con­sid­ered in the staffing of emer­gency de­part­ments, and the most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion is to have a num­ber of qual­i­fied per­son­nel able to ad­e­quately staff those de­part­ments.

“All EDs must have di­ag­nos­tic ser­vices avail­able in or­der to op­er­ate,” the state­ment said. “Staffing can be ac­com­plished through reg­u­lar staff sched­ul­ing or on-call sched­ules.”

The state­ment also re­ferred to the rea­son that the re­open­ing of emer­gency ser­vices at the Leader and Dis­trict In­te­grated Health­care Fa­cil­ity could not be re­sumed on June 16.

“The plan to re­sume ser­vice on June 16 was changed af­ter staff mem­bers in the di­ag­nos­tic ser­vices depart­ment gave no­tice,” the SHA e-mail noted. “We con­tinue to re­cruit di­ag­nos­tic staff and other health care per­son­nel that will en­able us to re-open the Leader ED as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The SHA state­ment re­ferred to on­go­ing chal­lenges faced by sev­eral com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals in the prov­ince to re­open their emer­gency de­part­ments.

“The five com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals in Broad­view, Radville, Lani­gan, Leader and Wolse­ley will re­quire ad­di­tional time over the com­ing weeks to ad­dress unique cir­cum­stances re­lated to en­sur­ing ad­e­quate physi­cian or staff re­sources are in place in each of those com­mu­ni­ties to safely re­open those emer­gency de­part­ments,” the state­ment said. “Bar­ri­ers to re-open­ing are re­lated to pre­ex­ist­ing or on­go­ing re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion chal­lenges in each of these com­mu­ni­ties. The SHA will be work­ing with those man­agers to help them work to­wards re­sump­tion of pre­vi­ous emer­gency depart­ment ser­vice lev­els as soon as it is safe to do so.”

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