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Arnprior, Ont. ER the latest rural hospital to experience staff shortages

The Arnprior Regional Hospital was forced to close its emergency room Monday night for the second time this month.

In a statement, hospital CEO Leah Levesque said, "Unfortunately, we could not avoid the two overnight temporary closures due to unexpected staffing shortages. We cannot guarantee there will not be another temporary closure."

Arnprior's ER also closed the night of Friday, May 19.

The hospital cites burnout, illness, and workers leaving the profession as reasons for the closures.

"If we are at a point where one or two sick calls makes a department have to close, this tells you how extreme these shortages in Ontario are," said Erin Ariss, president of the Ontario Nurses' Association.

The ONA says Ontario is short 24,000 nurses, with rural hospitals being most heavily impacted.

"There's just not enough staffing at this point to keep these emergency departments open," she tells CTV News.

At Queen's Park Tuesday, interim Liberal leader John Fraser claimed there were 145 emergency room closures across Ontario last summer.

In Kingston, the Children's Outpatient Clinic Urgent Care Centre will begin limiting the amount of walk-in patients it sees daily, starting June 1.

That centre says it may also close early some days depending on when that limit is reached.

A spokesperson Health Minister Sylvia Jones says the government is working to bolster the health care workforce across the province.

"Our government knows emergency rooms have faced capacity pressures year after year. We know the status quo is not working and more needs to be done, that is why earlier this year we launched Your Health," Hannah Jensen said.

In addition to our efforts to bolster our health care workforce across the province as laid out in Your Health, such as the expanded Learn and Stay Grant, As of Right credentials and working with regulatory colleges to break down barriers for nurses, our government has a number of programs available to support hospitals and their staff. The Emergency Department Locum Program provides urgent locum coverage to designated hospitals facing significant challenges covering emergency department shifts. Last year, through this program, nearly 1500 emergency room closures were diverted."

"What I am deeply concerned about is that this is going to put additional pressure on other emergency departments, other hospitals in the region," said Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles.

Elsewhere in Ontario, the emergency room in Minden is set to close permanently June 1 due to severe staffing shortages.

The ONA is calling on the province for more funding to keep up.

"Look at compensation, benefits, scheduling; things that matter to all Ontarians, in particular nurses," said Ariss.

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