Kamsack, Sask., Rally organizer says rural hospital ward closures are a matter of ‘life or death’

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Residents of the Kamsack, Saskatchewan area may now have to drive half an hour or more to get treatment at the hospital, as staffing shortages have resulted in the closure of the last local acute care bed and the closure of other services at the city hospital.

Kamsack is about 350 kilometers east of Saskatoon.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority told members of the community that as of Wednesday, inpatient services and some emergency services at Kamsack Hospital have been suspended until further notice. The hospital emergency department will only be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST.

Beyond that, residents will need to travel to Canora or a more distant town such as Yorkton, Wadena or Kelvington, according to the advisory.

It will overwhelm our ambulance service, they are already starting to feel the burnout.– Nancy Brunt, Mayor of Kamsack

The announcement sparked a community uproar that spilled over into the area outside the hospital on Thursday morning as provincial politicians spoke to residents mobilizing for a government response.

“We never really got any answers from them,” Betty Dix, co-organizer of the event and former mayor of the city, said after the rally. “We just have a hope and a promise. Not even a promise, just a hope.”

DIx estimates that hundreds of thousands of people travel through the region each year, including its provincial parks, and fears that in the event of a disaster, people will have to drive for hours to receive medical attention or wait for an air ambulance.

“It’s the busiest time of year, more so than winter, for this area and we don’t have a bed. It’s pretty scary,” she said.

“It’s life or death, that’s what we’ve come to.”

Dix said the government must step in and fix the problem.

“A Dollar Short and an Hour Late”

Linda Osachoff, a longtime health care administrative worker who worked at Kamsack Hospital, was at the rally on Thursday.

Osachoff said the crowd was full of passionate people fearing their hospital was closing permanently. She said he felt the government was “a dollar short and a day behind”, only appearing after the last acute care bed was lost.

“You may think money is the solution, but it’s actually responsibility and planning,” she said, adding that the province needs to make rural areas more attractive to professionals at the look for a job.

Kamsack Mayor Nancy Brunt said there was a shortage of nursing and lab staff. She said people have retired or taken jobs elsewhere in big cities, cutting staff at what she says is one of the busiest hospitals in the region.

The hospital serves several rural municipalities and First Nations communities in the region. Without the 20 acute care beds, other health services will struggle and other hospitals in the region will have to deal with an influx of patients, she said.

“It’s going to overwhelm our ambulance service, they’re already starting to feel the exhaustion. Our people have to go mainly to Yorkton now. Canora and Preeceville are having the same difficulties,” Brunt said.

Hot potato policy on hospital closures

NDP Opposition Critic for Seniors Matt Love was at the rally. He also took the opportunity in a press release to criticize the provincial government for closing hospitals, a criticism the province has often leveled at the NDP.

“After being in power for 15 years, the healthcare workforce crisis is theirs and theirs alone,” Love said in the statement.

Saskatchewan Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Everett Hindley hit back, telling reporters at the rally that while Kamsack Hospital was temporarily halted, the NDP was closing the hospitals permanently.

In an emailed statement following the rally, Hindley said the government was “committed to reopening all 20 beds at Kamsack Hospital”.

“We want the community to know that we take rural healthcare seriously and we are working every day to recruit healthcare workers to work in Kamsack and other communities where services have been interrupted by turnover. Staff.”

LISTEN | Saskatchewan. not only the province with struggling emergency services:

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If you’ve found yourself sitting in an ER waiting room with no end in sight, you’re not alone. Host Leisha Grebinski talks with Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians President Mike Howlett about how things got to this critical point and what needs to be done to ease the strain on the system . We also hear from Dr. Brian Geller about the state of Saskatchewan’s emergency rooms.

Two more doctors are expected to arrive in Kamsack to support the hospital, but the province will need to hire more nurses to reintroduce the 20 acute care beds it has promised to the town and surrounding community.

Bashir Jalloh, president of CUPE Local 5430, said Kamsack is one of many bed closures and emergency room closures in recent weeks, along with others in Melville, Spiritwood and Esterhazy.

“Not all of these are listed on the Saskatchewan Health Authority website,” Jalloh said. “We need more transparency on the part of the [health authority] on service interruptions and closures and on the measures taken to remedy the situation. »

The health authority did not respond to an email request from CBC about service disruptions not appearing on its website.

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