Like most health systems across Ontario and Canada, Niagara Health is facing unprecedented challenges relating to health human resources. At Niagara Health, we are doing everything we can to support our physicians, nurses, and staff, while delivering the best care for residents across the region.
Yesterday, following the advice of our Emergency Department (ED) physician leaders, Niagara Health’s management team presented a recommendation to its Board of Directors to ensure we maintain operational capacity at our three EDs in Welland, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. To do this we recommended reducing hours of operation at our Urgent Care Centres (UCC) in Port Colborne and Fort Erie. Out of a deep sense of responsibility for the people of Niagara, the Board has made the difficult decision to approve these changes, and as a result, these UCCs will operate exclusively from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. These changes will come into effect on July 5.
This decision was not easy, and I understand it is unwelcome news for some. We reviewed the data carefully and consulted extensively with our physicians and staff. It became clear that immediate action was needed. Our ED physician group have cautioned us about our ability to properly staff the three EDs in the coming months, with projections showing our EDs will be short 274 physician shifts.
After looking at all our options, reducing late night and early morning coverage in the Fort Erie and Port Colborne UCCs was deemed the absolute least disruptive way to address the challenges we are facing; the changes will also ensure we are able to continue prioritizing emergency needs for residents with serious, and potentially life-threatening conditions and injuries.
As CEO, I will not settle for the status quo. The current shortage of healthcare workers and gaps in primary care have caused strains on our healthcare system that are unsustainable. In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue working to build our clinical capacity, while advocating for our healthcare needs on behalf of the residents and healthcare workers of Niagara Region.