Overnight Clinton Hospital ER closure to remain in place
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
The overnight closure of the emergency room at Clinton Public Hospital will continue at least through the second quarter of 2021.
Andrew Williams, chief executive officer of the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, spoke to Central Huron Council on the issue at its Monday night meeting. He said the closure came as a result of a lack of staffing in December of 2019 and those pressures have not yet been alleviated.
Williams addressed council ahead of a virtual community information session scheduled for the evening of Jan. 14.
He reiterated that the Alliance fully intends to restore the hospital to 24-hour emergency room hours, but the staffing levels have not yet risen to a place where that is possible.
Through two hiring blitzes over the course of the past year, he told council, 65 external applications were received. From those 65, 33 were dismissed as being unqualified. He said the Alliance reached out to all of those qualified for the available positions and set up 11 interviews. Eight people followed up on those interviews and three people were hired.
He broke the figures down for council, he said, to show the number of people it takes to get a few qualified professionals to commit to working in a hospital in a rural setting like Clinton. In fact, he said, there are currently 170 vacant positions across the entire Alliance.
Unfortunately, he said, the hospital is still one full-time and one part-time nurse away from being able to reopen. While he was reluctant to put a timeline on it, he didn’t think it would be possible for a 24-hour emergency room to be restored at the hospital until at least the second quarter of this year.
He also added that the current COVID-19 pandemic has made things even more challenging. With no increase in nursing graduates, but a dramatic increase in demand, things aren’t getting any easier for the hiring process. He also said the pandemic seems to have made people less willing to move for a new position.
Later in the meeting, Councillor Michael Russo expressed his disappointment and skepticism, saying he felt like these staffing challenges were an unfortunate first step in the process to close the hospital.
Central Huron Mayor Jim Ginn disagreed, however, saying he and Deputy-Mayor Dave Jewitt had met with Williams who has assured them that the Alliance is absolutely committed to keeping the hospital open.