Nurse shortage prompts weekend closure of Spiritwood emergency centre

The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region main office in Prince Albert. Herald File Photo

For the second time this month, the Spiritwood Collaborative Emergency Centre will close over the weekend due to staffing shortages.

The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region is currently trying to fill two nursing positions at the facility, which is now operating with one full-time nurse and one part-time nurse. Spokesperson Doug Dahl said that the last closure, over October 8 and 9, was entirely due to the low staffing levels. The shortage is prompting a second closure for October 14 and 15.

It’s part of a broader pattern. Dahl said the health region faces challenges with “chronic vacancies in mostly rural communities.”

“This is not isolated to this health region or to Saskatchewan,” he said. “One of the other challenges in smaller facilities and rural communities is that there is not a pool of casual staff that can easily fill vacancies.”

In a press release, the health region’s director of primary care said they’re trying to fill the Spiritwood nursing positions as quickly as possible. 

“We understand that this service disruption is difficult for the community. Our goal is to minimize disruptions and continue full daytime hours of operation at the Collaborative Emergency Centre,” said Laurianne Tetreault.

The two positions are currently posted, with application deadlines this Friday. Any new hires may require specialized training before they can work alone to provide emergency care. According to Dahl, at least one person has already applied.

During this weekend’s closure, patients should call 811 for non-emergencies or 911 for emergencies, Dahl said. They can also visit the Parkland Integrated Health Centre in Shellbrook.

The Shellbook facility, though, is also facing staffing shortages. Dahl said the region is committed to keeping the emergency room there open, but has had to reduce inpatient beds over the past two years. He said there are incentives in place to attract staff to smaller communities, but some positions remain difficult to fill.

Collaborative emergency centres are intended to provide round-the-clock primary care, as well as referrals to hospital for life-threatening conditions. The Spiritwood facility is generally open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.