Municipality approves SLMHC’s request for assistance to prevent emergency department closures
Tim Brody - Editor
Municipal Council has approved a financial request made by the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) to assist in recruiting physicians to cover the hospital’s emergency department in the new year.
At the Dec. 7 special meeting of council, council voted to approve a financial contribution towards housing three to four (3-4) Emergency Department physicians for a three-month period beginning January 1, 2023; and that a one-time travel allowance of up to a maximum $2,000 be provided to each physician for travel home; and that a free fitness centre membership be provided to each physician while in Sioux Lookout; and that Council request that a Physician Recruitment Committee be established to include community health care stakeholders to find solutions to address the shortage of physicians in Sioux Lookout.
The financial assistance breaks down as follows:
• Housing - $ 24,000 (4 physicians x 3 months x $2,000 per month)
• Travel Allowance - $ 8,000 (4 x $2,000)
• Fitness Centre Membership – In kind donation (Value $608 – 4 x $152)
• Total Financial Implications - $32,608
This would be financed through the 2023 Municipal Operating Budget.
Municipal CAO Michelle Larose shared that at the request of Dean Osmond, SLMHC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and Chief of Staff, Dr. Laurel Laakso, Mayor Doug Lawrance, Councillor Joyce Timpson and herself attended a meeting on November 8 to discuss the dire need for physicians to cover the emergency department in the New Year.
A financial request was made of the Municipality to assist in the recruitment of emergency room doctors to cover shortages in the New Year.
In a November 28 letter to Larose, Osmond and Laakso provided the Municipality with background on projected impacts of emergency department closures.
They shared, “The SLMHC ED is a medium volume department with annual visits at around 23,000 per year. Average daily visits range from 40-60 total visits per 24 hours (including an average of 20 visits overnight). In any 24-hour period, there are anywhere from two to four visits for critically acute and unstable patients requiring immediate attention/resuscitation.
“The SLMHC ED has been very close to closure a number of times due to critical shortages in physician staffing. Local physician resources and provincial physician resources are expected to be unable to address these shortages in the winter of 2023. Without a significant recruitment effort, ED closure is considered likely.
“Based on our volumes and acuity, an ED closure would almost certainly result in loss of life (a minimum of 2-4 lives each 24-hour period). Reduced access to timely procedures/care will also result in poor health outcomes even in cases where loss of life does not imminently result. For example, even if a patient with a heart attack is ultimately able to receive a life-saving procedure and does not die, the delay in access to care could result in greater permanent loss of heart muscle, meaning higher likelihood of heart failure, heart valve replacement, etc.”
Osmond and Laakso went on to state, “Based on the daily number of calls made to land ambulance services within the Municipality, local ambulance services would quickly be overwhelmed with transporting patients back and forth to the nearest open ED, i.e. Dryden. This would result in land paramedics being automatically deployed throughout the Kenora district to respond to calls in Sioux Lookout. The impact to service delivery within the region would be devastating.
“Impacts to air ambulance would also be substantial. The need to transport patients from the remote First Nations communities further afield and also to respond to gaps in land ambulance services would mean longer wait times for transfer (including emergent transfer), increases in hospital volumes with patients facing longer wait times for repatriation/transfers for procedures, and ultimately, the downstream impacts could last many days beyond the initial time of closure.”
“Local police services would also be quickly overwhelmed. Local police respond to mental health and addiction crises daily and bring these patients for care at the SLMHC ED. In the event these patients would need to be transferred to Dryden ED, it is highly probable that there would be no police left on duty within the Sioux Lookout to respond to calls.”
Osmond and Laakso went on to request, “The urgent need for immediate short-term recruitment of ED physicians to prevent these impacts is clear. The hospital is seeking to add additional incentives to the current pay structure in order to recruit these physicians and compete against other communities and is requesting the help of the Municipality of Sioux Lookout to offset these additional costs.”