In recent weeks, the emergency room (ER) in the town of Assiniboia, Sask., has closed its doors multiple times to the public due to staff shortages. This has some members of the community worried and searching for solutions.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is looking to step in to alleviate concerns surrounding ER closures, saying staffing shortages stem from many things, including COVID-19, fatigue and retirement, to name a few, but admits it’s been an issue since before the pandemic.
“The challenge to recruit to rural Saskatchewan preceded COVID as well. So it is challenging to get people to move to a smaller community sometimes if they don’t have roots in that community or some sort of linkage to it,” said Dr. Kevin Wasko, SHA physician executive for integrated rural health.
Members of the small Saskatchewan community are calling on the SHA for immediate solutions.
“We are concerned about our town and our community and our area, and I guess that’s why we are speaking up. SHA promotes patient first and I don’t think the patient comes first here when I come to a hospital and the door is closed,” resident Linda McCrank said.
Another issue is alerting the community when an ER needs to close.
“As much as we do communicate our messages to the public through all that the media outlets that are available to us. It doesn’t mean people always receive the message either, which is the unfortunate part of the disruption,” Wasko said.
Some Assiniboia residents say a collaborative effort could help to solve the problem.
“I really believe there are solutions. We need to brainstorm and people need to work as a team in our community to make these things work. We can’t just close the doors and say, ‘Oh, there’s not enough staff,'” resident Mary Miller said.
The SHA said staff members are being recruited to start working at the Assiniboia Union Hospital in the coming weeks.
Assiniboia is approximately 150 km southwest of Regina.