KHSC forced to close sections due to nurse shortage

Kingston General Hospital main entrance. Photo by Josie Vallier/The Kingstonist.

Editor’s note: this article has been modified from its original version. For greater clarity, the work “units” was replaced with the word “sections” in some parts.

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre continues to struggle with serious nursing staff shortages, requiring it to temporarily close some sections and redeploy staff to other areas, as more than 100 staff were off due to COVID-19 over the past week. After the Urgent Care Centre at Hotel Dieu Hospital closed its doors early on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) responded to Kingstonist inquiries about how it is dealing with staffing shortages.

“Kingston Health Sciences Centre, like most Canadian hospitals, is dealing with critical staffing shortages,” the hospital organization said in an emailed response. “There are not enough healthcare workers to hire to fill all the gaps in the system. This is compounded by rising numbers of staff calling in sick with COVID-19. Last week, a total of 109 staff were off at varying times with COVID.”

According to KHSC, nurse-to-patient ratios, which vary across acute care units depending on patient needs, are “sometimes” not at pre-pandemic levels. “Often when we are short nurses we will provide extra support staff so that nurses can focus on only the work nurses can do,” KHSC stated.

In addition to the early closure of the Urgent Care Centre, KHSC revealed that it had also been forced to close part of its Emergency Department at Kingston General Hospital — in this case, an area of the department that KHSC says typically treats less urgent patients — over the long weekend due to staff shortages.

“Because we can’t simply hire more people, because there aren’t enough people to hire, we are working with our care teams to manage workloads,” KHSC noted in the email response to Kingstonist. “Throughout the pandemic, we have had to redeploy staff where they are needed most. When possible, staff is focused on skills at the top of their scope of practice while support roles assist with patients’ daily-living activities.”

“Delivering health care has always been team-based, but now more than ever, we are relying on every member of the team to step in where appropriate and ensure our patients, our friends and family, get the care they deserve.”

With files from Cris Vilela.

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