Signage outside Lakes District Hospital, prompting that the hospital was on diversion, once again sparked conversation in the community around medical staffing issues in Burns Lake.
On the weekend of May 14, Lakes District Hospital had signage reading, “Nursing shortage life or limb emergencies only” and “This facility is on diversion with limited services. Only life-threatening or loss of limb will be seen”, displayed outside the hospital. However, Eryn Collins with Northern Health confirmed that the signage was a precautionary measure due to staff shortage over the weekend.
“Over the weekend, Lakes District Hospital was experiencing staffing challenges that had the potential to impact how services are accessed, wait times to be seen, and potential for patients to be transported to alternate sites depending on their care needs. Staff posted signage to help ensure patients were aware of the challenges and potential impacts,” she said.
She however clarified that despite the signage, the hospital wasn’t on diversion.
“The signage itself is somewhat outdated, and we’re reviewing how best to communicate to patients when such circumstances arise; the hospital was not technically on diversion,” said Collins.
In a social media post on the Northern Health’s community page, questions around the signage appeared earlier last week, when a resident posted photos of the signs. However, a Northern Health representative clarified what those signs meant.
“The signs pictured were posted to let the public know that from Saturday to Sunday (May 14 and 15), the emergency room was limiting walk-ins due to a staffing shortage. The hospital is now operating normally again. As always, people who need life-threatening emergency care should always call 9-1-1 for transport to the nearest available and appropriate facility,” said Northern Health.
Collins noted that staffing challenges are a reality at facilities across not only the north, but other health regions – and impacted by both existing vacancies, and unexpected staff absences due to illness or other causes.
For the past several months, the hospital lab has also been facing staffing shortage, which had prompted the facility to take extra measures such as adding extra agency staff when necessary, changing lab timings, etc.
“Lakes District Hospital, along with some other facilities in our region and beyond, are experiencing challenges with shortages of lab technologist staff. We are actively recruiting on this front as well, to fill laboratory technologist vacancies, and to maintain services and reduce the impact on patients, on an ongoing basis,” said Collins.
“A significant amount of work has gone into this, and we have implemented a number of measures to try and minimize impact on testing at Lakes District Hospital, including recruitment incentives, and working to expand point of care testing capabilities.”
Collins additionally noted that shortages of staff in health care sectors and disciplines has unfortunately been a challenge that is not isolated to the North.
“We are doing everything we can to attract more staff to our communities, and to keep residents informed about impacts on services when they occur,” she said.