Orangeville hospital appeals to staff to work extra shifts this weekend due to staffing shortage

·3 min read
Headwaters Health Care Centre (HHCC), 100 Rolling Hills Dr., has indicated to its staff that it currently has 'urgent staffing needs,' according to SEIU Healthcare, which represents 60,000 workers. (CBC - image credit)
Headwaters Health Care Centre (HHCC), 100 Rolling Hills Dr., has indicated to its staff that it currently has 'urgent staffing needs,' according to SEIU Healthcare, which represents 60,000 workers. (CBC - image credit)

An Orangeville, Ont. hospital has put out an urgent call to staff to work extra shifts this weekend due to an anticipated staff shortage, says a union that represents health-care workers.

Headwaters Health Care Centre (HHCC), 100 Rolling Hills Dr., has indicated to its staff that it currently has "urgent staffing needs," according to SEIU Healthcare, which represents 60,000 workers. The union said the hospital has warned it may redeploy anyone willing to pick up a shift to departments where they are needed most.

The staffing shortage comes as the hospital in Orangeville, about 80 km northwest of Toronto, deals with an increase of patients infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

An email dated Friday from Joanne Alves, the hospital's human resources manager, to HHCC Central Scheduling, urges the department to "broadcast" to everybody, including ward clerks, registered nurses, registered practical nurses and personal support workers, that there are available shifts. The union obtained the email.

The email says the department needs to ask staff members if they can work on Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

"It is important that the employee be advised if they agree to pick up a shift, that they may be redeployed throughout the Hospital," Alves said in the email.

"Given where we are with increased patient surge, we anticipate greater needs over the weekend."

Hospital experiencing 'real crisis,' union leader says

Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, said on Saturday that there is a nursing shortage in Ontario and the situation at Headwaters is an example of a larger problem. Hospitals are "barely managing" because they do not have enough staff, she said.

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"What we are hearing from the frontline staff is that there is a real crisis going on at that hospital and of course management is trying to deal with this crisis the best way that they can," Stewart said.

"They are redeploying workers to various places in the hospital where they need them to be, but what's alarming to us today is hearing that unregulated staff are being asked to assist the nursing staff. And the frontline nurses are saying they are concerned about that."

Housekeeping and dietary staff are being asked to help, but it's not clear what they are being asked to do, according to Stewart.

"What's happening at Headwaters is a prime example of how desperate these hospitals are for leadership from our government," she added.

Hospital maintaining 'sufficient' staffing, CEO says

Kim Delahunt, the hospital's president and CEO, however, said in a message posted to the hospital's website on Saturday that the hospital currently has enough staff. As well, non-nursing staff have not been redeployed to provide nursing care.

Delahunt said 4.8 per cent of the hospital's 925 staff, physicians and midwives are off sick or are at home self-isolating due to COVID-19 as of Saturday.

"Even with these individuals off work, the hospital has been maintaining sufficient staffing levels," she said in the message.

When the Ontario government issued its directive to hospitals to pause non-emergency surgeries and procedures on Jan. 5, the hospital redeployed staff to areas in the hospital with the most need, she said.

For example, nursing staff from its ambulatory care clinics and operating rooms are now providing nursing care on inpatient units, while staff who usually work in the medical device reprocessing department have been redeployed to dietary and environmental services, she said.

"We also regularly issue shift broadcasts to our staff which offer additional shifts if they are able to accommodate to help us with various needs," she said.

"Daily staffing meetings with our leaders help plan daily and future needs. Shifts that are proposed to staff, are discussed in advance as much as possible, so they know where they will be working during their upcoming shift."

Delahunt added: "Overall, our goal is to ensure our patients are provided with safe, quality care and that staff are supported."

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