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While Southlake is cutting nurses, Simcoe hospitals are recruiting them

Barrie hospital president says many hospitals are facing budget challenges, 'but it is not unique'

Southlake Regional Health Centre may not want them, but officials at Simcoe County hospitals say they continue to deal with challenges posed by the pandemic and that means they need more nurses, not less.

The Newmarket hospital announced Tuesday that nearly 100 registered nurses will be laid off. Officials said its “substantial deficit” is unrelated to and predates the pandemic and that it also faces significant financial challenges similar to other hospitals in Ontario.

Meanwhile, hospitals in Barrie, Orillia, Midland-Penetanguishene, Collingwood, and Alliston all say they all need more nurses.

“We are actually hiring and have been hiring to cope with the pandemic,” said Janice Skot, president and CEO of Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH).

With the initial wave of COVID-19 infections, the Barrie hospital hired 121 new staff members, including nurses, with the approval of the province so it could respond quickly and safely.

The hiring continues as the pandemic persists.

Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) president and chief executive officer Gail Hunt says all hospitals are experiencing significant financial challenges related to the pandemic.

The north Simcoe County organization is looking to fill part-time and full-time nursing positions, confirmed Bill Whittaker, vice president of human resources.

“We’ve had to alter our operations in nearly every aspect and in GBGH’s case, we’re also supporting a community assessment centre for COVID testing,” Hunt wrote in an email. “We have been keeping a detailed account of our pandemic-related expenses and capital costs, and will be working with the government to resolve these expenditures. 

“Even pre-pandemic, our hospital was experiencing financial challenges based on the volumes of patients we’re seeing far surpassing the amount of care we’re funded to provide," she added. 

In its preparations for a second wave of COVID-19, Collingwood General and Marine Hospital (CGMH) is getting ready for the potential opening of its Alternate Health Facility and supporting long-term care homes through redeployment. 

“As such, we continue to recruit for a variety of front-line and support positions to ensure we have the appropriate resources in place to meet these needs,” said spokesperson Lisa van Kolfschoten. “CGMH, like many other hospitals in the province, is financially challenged due to the pandemic; however, we are optimistic that all COVID-19-related costs will be funded at a future time by the province.”

The situation is very similar at Alliston’s Stevenson Memorial Hospital and Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in Orillia, which are also recruiting.

Stevenson Memorial is adding nurses, along with other staff, to support its assessment centre, which it’s looking at expanding, as well as at its screening trailer.

In Barrie, spaces were reconfigured and a field hospital was erected in the RVH parking lot. In addition, some patients were placed at the IOOF home.

And as those who were redeployed as screeners returned to their regular jobs in services such as at the operating rooms, new people were being hired to fill those screening positions.

“So the toll has been quite significant on RVH,” said Skot.

From the financial perspective, RVH is facing a deficit after 10 consecutive years of running a balanced budget, she added. 

The government is aware of the costs it has incurred and Skot says she's confident the necessary financial support will flow from the province to fully support COVID-19-related expenses.

“It’s uncomfortable, but it is not unique,” she said. “Many hospitals are facing budget challenges.”

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About the Author: Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative

Marg. Buineman is an award-winning journalist covering justice issues and human interest stories for BarrieToday.
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