June 23, 2024

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West Grey mayor blames nursing shortages on SBGHC management

3 min read

The impending movement of Durham’s only inpatient hospital beds to hospitals in Walkerton and Kincardine has outraged the community and has them fearing for the future of their hospital.

“The announcement to transition 10 beds out of our community into other communities is devastating, and is the wrong decision,” said Durham area resident Christine Robinson.

Hospital administration said the decision wasn’t made lightly, but there simply weren’t enough nurses to keep Durham’s emergency room and inpatient bed department operating.

“There are a large number of patients who live in the area who do not have access to primary care, so their only point of access to the healthcare system is through the emergency department. It’s really important to keep that access going and consistent,” explained South Bruce Grey Health Centre CEO Nancy Shaw.

However, West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles believes the nursing shortage at Durham’s hospital has been “created” by those that run the South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC), a hospital corporation that run the hospitals in Kincardine, Durham, Walkerton and Chesley.

President and CEO of South Bruce Grey Health Centre Nancy Shaw is seen during a Zoom interview on May 6, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

Eccles said he knows of some recent nursing grads from Georgian College who applied and were turned away from Durham’s hospital.

“Three nurses have graduated in the last year. All applied to the hospital in Durham. Two of them never got a phone call back. One got a phone call, but was told that only part-time was available, two or three shifts a week,” said Eccles.

He said he knows of another nurse that applied and who could walk to Durham’s hospital, but was turned away and instead got hired in Palmerston a week later.

“This is what I’m hearing continuously. The statement comes from South Bruce Grey Health Centre that, oh, we’ve got a retention and recruitment problem. It’s not internal, it’s management decisions that have created this,” said Eccles.

Shaw said hospital administration has not created this shortage. In the past six months alone, she said SBGHC has received 16 registered nursing applications for Durham.

One nurse was hired, two are still being interviewed, one didn’t meet hiring requirements, and 12 applicants were from out of the country or out of the area, and didn’t want to move to the largely rural community.

Durham Hospital seen on July 11, 2023. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“No, this was not created. This has been a long standing issue for some time now, and it’s just got increasingly worse, so we’ve had to address it,” said Shaw.

Eccles however is not buying it.

A move to only daytime ER hours in March, following by the movement of Durham’s inpatient beds 45 days later, has eroded trust in the people that run the community’s lone hospital.

“It’s getting a little difficult to believe the stories that’s being spun there. That you’re always going to stay open, healthcare will be there we guarantee that, well, you haven’t come through on any guarantees you’ve had yet,” said Eccles.

Durham’s inpatient beds will move to Kincardine and Walkerton on June 3. Shaw said “the Durham hospital will remain viable,” and SBGHC is “committed to it remaining functioning.”

Frustrated community members are holding a public rally opposing the bed cuts in Durham on Tuesday night. SBGHC meanwhile is holding a community webinar to discuss the changes on May 14.

West Grey Council is seeking legal advice on how best to stop Durham’s hospital beds from leaving town. 

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