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Wednesday, 22 June 2011 16:28

Nursing shortage causing lots of issues for Shaunavon

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A nursing shortage in Shaunavon may cause more issues than just the three-day disruption of emergency services the community experienced June 10-13.

Shaunavon is currently short one licensed practical nurse, who is battling a long-term illness, and three registered nurses. Some of the RNs have been covering the LPN rotation and working extra hours to keep the hospital open.

A shortage, however, occurred last weekend forcing the emergency and outpatient services to shut down from 7 p.m. June 10 until 7 p.m. June 13.

Emergency services stepped up to work extra shifts in case of emergencies.

The Cypress Health Region is struggling to find new nurses for the community, especially a temporary LPN to cover the long-term leave. Since a registered nurse, physician and lab/diagnostic staff are needed to keep emergency services open, the staffing situation may create more disruptions in Shaunavon’s near future.

“Short-term, you may see some temporary disruptions,” said Gloria Illerbrun, the region’s executive director of health services. “Our nursing staff here have been very good working to the last minute trying to avoid those disruptions, which means trades and putting their personal lives on hold, but I suspect there will be some in the short term.”

Cypress staff has always maintained it is just one nurse or doctor away from a diversion in virtually every community in the region. People taking time off for holidays this summer may make the situation even more difficult.

Illerbrun and the region, however, are looking at preventing more disruptions in the future by soliciting the help of agency nurses.

Illerbrun has contacted Canadian nurses’ agencies and is in discussions with working out an agreement that will allow those nurses to work in the Cypress Health Region. The region is hoping to use the agency nurses on a temporary basis to help fill in job vacancies throughout the region.

“We haven’t used (that) in the health region before,” said Illerbrun. “We’re looking into that and we’re waiting for some call backs on stuff with that. If we can come to a successful arrangement then they could help us through the summer.”

Even if the agency agrees to have some of its nurses fill in temporarily for the Cypress Health Region, it doesn’t mean the nurses will come in right away. Every new staff member in the region must go through an orientation process before they can practise in the region.

Response times by the nurses to fill vacant positions will be quicker once the nurses are orientated.

Although Illerbrun would like to see all the open nursing positions filled in the region, she is hopeful using agency nurses will help the region attain its ultimate goal.

“The goal is to maintain 24-hour services in our hospitals and that’s what we’re working diligently towards,” she said.

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