We Can't Thank Our Staff and Physicians Enough

September 14, 2022

Hanover and District Hospital (HDH), like many hospitals across the province, experienced a very challenging summer with increased patient volumes and acuity that were coupled with staffing pressures. Hospitals in the Grey-Bruce region and beyond struggled to keep core patient services operational. The closures in this region have not been without impact to HDH. Through a lot of planning and collaboration with our front-line staff and physicians, HDH was able to ensure that core programs remained open and accessible for the region. The hospital applauds our staff, physicians and management team for going above and beyond to ensure that HDH’s core programs remained operational, and for pivoting to assume the additional volumes and demands that were faced during temporary closures of other hospital partners in the region.

For months, the hospital’s staff and physicians have faced unprecedented patient volumes in both the inpatient Acute Care Unit and the Emergency Department, creating significant overcapacity challenges for the hospital. Patient visits to the Emergency Department increased by 45% in the first quarter of the fiscal year when compared to the same period the year prior. The inpatient Acute Care Unit has also experienced an increase of 20% in volumes, as well as longer length of stay for inpatients. One of the contributing factors to the increase in length of stay for inpatients is the long wait to access Long Term Care beds in nursing home settings. The Family Centred Birthing Unit has also been very busy over the summer; temporary closures of programs in southwestern Ontario have had an effect on increased patient volumes in this area as well. This fall is also proving to be very challenging with the continued unplanned closures of other Emergency Departments in the region.

In light of these significant pressures, our dedicated group of physicians ensured that the hospital remained operational – working extended shifts and some rearranging planned vacation. Our frontline staff mirrored this as well, with nursing, allied health and support services working selflessly to ensure that HDH was able to provide exceptional care to the region that we serve. President and CEO, Dana Howes stated, “We cannot thank our physicians and staff enough. They work tirelessly to make sure that patients have access to care when they need it the most. Our region is very fortunate to have access to this devoted care team; they truly care for the community. We are so grateful and proud of the entire team at HDH.” Howes is quick to note that this dedication is not without impact, as burnout amongst the team is certainly present. “Our physicians, front-line and support staff did not get a break this summer. Every shift was covered, all while experiencing higher volumes and acuity. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the toll it has taken on our physicians and patient care teams.” Howes further shares that when additional pressures are placed upon HDH, more staffing and funding resources are not provided; rather, HDH has to absorb these additional volumes and costs, and pivot to ensure that all patients continue to receive exceptional care. However, HDH has been working with the Ministry of Health to address these challenges.

HDH has been able to recruit a number of Registered Nurses, Registered Practical Nurses, Diagnostic Imaging and Laboratory staff since the end of May. “One of the things that we are most proud of at HDH is that it is a great place to come and work. We are a collaborative team here and that shines through in all that we do,” Howes remarks. She shares that the wellness and mental health of the staff and physicians is a priority for the organization. Yoga, a wellness tips newsletter, a Summer Solstice event and an Appreciation Week for physicians and staff were hosted by HDH’s Wellness & Mental Health Committee in an effort to provide some levity during these difficult times.

While the summer has come to an end, the pressures that face HDH’s physicians and staff has not. The hospital continues to be concerned for what the future will hold in light of the continued closures of Emergency Departments in the region. Howes cautions that the current staffing state is not sustainable for staff and physicians without broader intervention. “The local health system is under so much pressure. HDH has done a great job of remaining resilient; however, this cannot continue – more resources and innovation will be required to ensure that we can continue operating all of our programs.”