Staffing issues worsen at emergency department
By Jenn Watt
Published May 29, 2018
Haliburton Highlands Health Services CEO Carolyn Plummer said even though physician recruitment has been a top priority, there still aren’t enough emergency department doctors for the coming summer season.
At the HHHS board meeting on May 24, she called the situation a “crisis” and outlined the ongoing efforts to bring doctors to Haliburton to assist with emergencies.
“Our manpower is less than it was even at this point last year,” Plummer told the board.
“We have been reaching out to anyone and everyone we can think of to help us reach out to any physicians who may be interested in coming to this community and we’re looking for more and more ways to attract those physicians,” she said.
HHHS has “two physicians who work full time in the emergency department (one of whom is taking a leave over the summer months), and three who split their time between the emergency department and the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team clinic,” Plummer said in an email to the Echo following the meeting.
Regular locum physicians as well as help from Health Force Ontario’s Emergency Department Locum Program have been helping to fill shifts, she said.
According to her CEO’s report circulated before the meeting, a recent policy change from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, or CPSO, is putting additional pressure on the department.
“Now, any new physicians not certified in emergency medicine (new graduates and/or experienced family medicine physicians wanting to add emergency medicine to their practice) are required to undergo a period of low-level clinical supervision by a local clinical supervisor who is expected to provide supervision reports to the CPSO on a quarterly basis for a period of six to 12 months,” the report states.
“There must be a formal system of backup for the first three months. The experienced colleague must then be immediately available to assist with seriously ill or injured patients.”
This new requirement would put the onus on local doctors to become clinical supervisors, Plummer’s report said.
She outlined the efforts made in the last two years to find new doctors including working with Haliburton County on an incentive program, participating in recruitment fairs, partnering with Ross Memorial Hospital and Peterborough Regional Health Centre to create a long-term staffing plan and lobbying Health Force Ontario, the Central East Local Health Integration Network and the Ontario Hospital Association for assistance. Health Force Ontario has been helping to fill vacant shifts, the report states.
Plummer told the Echo “ideally at HHHS we could use another two full-time physicians, plus another two who split their time [with the clinic].”
The Minden emergency department is fully staffed for the summer.
Communication top priority for community committee
The Community Advisory Committee submitted a list of its top priorities to the board at their Thursday meeting.
Chief among them was improved communication to the community from HHHS and development of a “patient navigator” program, which would make available advocates, who would assist patients in using the health-care system.
John Smith, chair of the committee, told the board that HHHS had much to offer, but many still don’t have a full concept of what they can access.
“Too often people who are in need of services don’t actually know where to go or how to access what’s out there,” he said.
His committee’s report to the board suggests regular articles in local newspapers and spots on the radio highlighting services and how to access them. A listing of health services both in print version and electronic as well as information centres in Minden and Haliburton were options.
They also asked the board to consider developing one number to call to access information about services. “This should be linked to the patient navigator system,” the report says.
Other recommendations include creating more affordable housing and assisted living services; increasing the number of long-term care beds; expanding the range of mental health services; and recruiting more doctors. Improving the communication around the hours of the walk-in clinic in Haliburton was also mentioned.
Smith asked the board to review the document and return to the committee with their perspectives.
“Come back and share that with us and engage us … [and say,] here’s a role we think you can play as a Community Advisory Committee in moving us forward and making progress on these.”