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Lack of nurses forces extended closures of Lunenburg emergency room

by Paula Levy

 LUNENBURG - Night closures at Fishermen's Memorial Hospital (FMH) will continue for at least four more months.

 Closing the emergency department each evening at 10:30 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. was supposed to be a temporary measure for July and August until after the vacation season.

 But in a letter dated August 7, chief executive officer Kevin McNamara informed Town of Lunenburg council the district will have to continue the planned closures beyond the summer months. In fact, the closures will continue until at least December.

 Ongoing closures at FMH are a result of a lack of nursing staff. In an interview last week Mr. McNamara said the district has not been successful in recruiting the needed nurses. He said there are currently 32 registered nurse and two licenced practical nurse vacancies at FMH, South Shore Regional Hospital and Queens General Hospital.

 Mr. McNamara said tough competition provincially and nationally is putting South Shore Health at the bottom of the list of desired places to work. He said since the district doesn't offer any more incentives for nurses to relocate, the professionals are going elsewhere where the ante is higher.

 "We've done what everybody else does. We attend job fairs. We advertise," he said.

 In an effort to get more people involved in solving the district-wide problem of lack of staff including physicians and technologists, Mr. McNamara attempted to rally municipal units. But none of Lunenburg County's five municipal units seem interested in becoming involved.

 Mr. McNamara said he also attempted to get the Lunenburg Queens Regional Development Agency (RDA) on side. But that too proved unsuccessful. He said aside from one meeting about two months ago, the RDA doesn't seem interested.

 "The executive director was going to meet with me but I'm still waiting for him to return my phone call," said Mr. McNamara. "It would be nice for us to try and develop a partnership. … Having physicians and nurses is just as important to business as it is to the community because if you don't have the ability to provide medical care, professionals will not come here with their families."

 Mr. McNamara said lack of medical staff should be a concern of the entire community. He said community involvement is a component of successful recruiting.

 In the meantime, Mr. McNamara said the health district is developing models of care in an attempt to free up the nurses on staff.

 "Other support staff we can put in to take away some of the duties that nurses or LPNs do, to allow them to focus more on nursing duties so we could operate with less RNs in some places," said Mr. McNamara.



posted on 08/19/08
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