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Extended and extensive ER closures cause tension in rural Ontario

Posted: September 24, 2023

(September 23 2023)

By: Scott Miller, CTV News

Chesley, Ont.’s emergency room was supposed to reopen on Monday following a three week closure — it has now been extended until Oct. 2. Walkerton’s ER has been closed most of this weekend, while Durham’s ER will be closed four of the next seven nights.

Such is the state of emergency healthcare in midwestern Ontario.

“We’re in a four hospital network and three of the four hospitals can no longer be said to have full-time ER services for their communities. So that’s a 75 per cent, failure rate, I’d call it,” said Chesley resident and hospital crusader, Brenda Scott.

The South Bruce Grey Health Centre, which operates hospitals in Chesley, Durham, Walkerton and Kincardine, said the increase in ER closures is a result of nursing shortages, compounded by short term leaves, vacations, and short notice sick calls.

It’s all too much for local mayors, who are demanding immediate action from the province to fix their healthcare crisis.

“We got the hospital ERs reopened, looks like based on agency nurses, so it was a mirage. It’s clear now the money has run out to pay agency nurses to keep rural healthcare open,” said Bruce County Warden Chris Peabody.

Not unlike the Greenbelt controversy health advocates said it will take public pressure to show the government that chronic ER closures are not something rural residents are willing to stand for.

“There’s no other way to staff the hospitals without the recently retired staff coming back. So, the province has to do that. Nothing is happening. Absolutely nothing, as the situation worsens,” explained Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director, Natalie Mehra.

On Monday, Mehra hopes thousands of Ontarians join her at a rally at Queen’s Park to bring to light that Ontario emergency rooms have been closed for over 13,000 hours this year — with no end in sight.

“The public has to pour on the pressure on our local MPPs to say this is not acceptable,” said Mehra.

“A mere 14 months ago, after we fought so hard to get our ER open again, we now have to stand up again. The root of this problem is a lack of attention to rural healthcare,” said Peabody.

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