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South Bruce Grey Health Centre hospitals were plagued with emergency department closures

Posted: December 29, 2023

(December 28, 2023)

By: The SouthGrey

This was the fifth most-read story of the year and was seen as the local indicator of a much bigger problem facing the province.

In an Ontario Health Coalition report released on December 5, it was revealed that the number of Ontario hospital emergency closures has soared to a new record level.

Across Ontario, vital hospital services, such as emergency departments, maternity and obstetrics, outpatient laboratories and intensive care units, have been subject to repeated closures in the last three years. Those closures were unprecedented. In its report, the Coalition found that the number of emergency department closures has increased even more. Not only are emergency departments shuttered for evenings, overnights, weekends or weeks and months at a time, but so too are labour and delivery units, obstetrics, outpatient laboratories, urgent care centres and intensive care units. The duration of closures is getting longer. Multiple towns across regions are closing vital services at the same time. Public notice is often last minute.

The Ontario Health Coalition tracked the closures of these urgent hospital services and found the following closures to date in 2023:

  • 868 temporary or permanent emergency department closures (one is permanent);
  • 316 urgent care centre closures;
  • two outpatient laboratory closures;
  • eleven obstetrics unit closures;
  • one ICU closure, and;
  • one labour and delivery unit closure (long-term).

In total, there have been 1,199 closures of vital hospital services this year up until November 24, meaning these services have temporarily or permanently closed in 1,199 instances. Consequently, 31,055 hours of care (equivalent to 3.44 years) have been lost to local communities this year so far.

A growing number of local hospitals are at risk of permanently losing services.

Locally, the local emergency department in Chesley has been closing evenings, overnight and on weekends since December 5, 2022. The Durham hospital has had at least 51 emergency department closures in 2023 to date.

According to the Coalition, the immediate cause of the closures is staff shortages including nurse, health professional and physician shortages. Staffing shortages that were emerging prior to the pandemic have grown over the last three years into the worst crisis anyone has seen.

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