The sustained, system-wide pressure on emergency department staffing levels in hospitals across Ontario is now being felt closer to home. As a result of staff vacancies, COVID-related absences, vacations, staff fatigue and burnout, and a shortage of nurses presently, the Emergency Department at Glengarry Hospital in Alexandria will be partially closed on a temporary basis. 

Effective July 15 at 6:00p.m., the Emergency Department will be closed nightly from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. and will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The temporary closure is to remain in place until August 3. However, if staffing resources at the hospital improve, full hours of operation will resume earlier. 

“We were not able to meet minimum staffing requirements,” said hospital CEO and President Robert Alldred-Hughes. 

He said only 35 to 50 per cent of the staffing requirements for shifts at the hospital are able to be filled. As an example, Alldred-Hughes said a night shift requires eight personnel but only three are presently available. 

Glengarry Memorial Hospital has informed its regional partners, partner hospitals and public health of the partial closure of the Emergency Department. Anyone requiring immediate medical help should call 911 or Health Connect Ontario (811). Ambulances will be redirected to the Cornwall Community Hospital or the Hawkesbury & District General Hospital. 

Glengarry Memorial Hospital is actively working to recruit staff to reduce any temporary closures going forward and resume services to the community. 

According to Alldred-Hughes, the greatest staffing shortage exists in nursing. He said the provincial government is aware of the situation facing hospitals. He said international recruitment and reviewing how many spaces are available for nursing students in community colleges and universities are some ways Ontario could increase the number of nurses available to work in hospitals. 

Alldred-Hughes emphasized the decision to partially close the Emergency Department on a temporary basis was not taken lightly, and understand the challenges it may cause. 

“It’s absolutely a decision nobody wanted to make,” he remarked. 

Updates on the hours of the Emergency Department will be shared via the Glengarry Memorial Hospital website and social media platforms.