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Ottawa Hospital emergency physicians to support Kemptville hospital ER this summer

Ottawa Hospital emergency physicians will be covering shifts at the Kemptville hospital's emergency department this summer, to help fill gaps in the physician schedule and ensure the community will have access to emergency care.

Kemptville District Hospital CEO Frank Vassalo says the hospital was facing the prospects of weekend closures over the next three months without this new partnership with the Ottawa Hospital.

"We had a lot of gaps in our physician schedule," Vassalo told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, adding its schedule showed the hospital's current physician compliment would only cover Monday to Friday, 24-hour service.

"We were looking at a Saturday, Sunday closure; all day Saturday and Sunday for as much as a three-month closure. That would be a reduction in services that would be fairly significant through June, July and August. So the magnitude of the shortages really drove us to thinking about some creative solutions and I reached out to their CEO, Cameron Love."

The Ottawa Hospital says the hospital and its Emergency Physician Group will work with the Kemptville District Hospital to coordinate and help support emergency services in the community south of Ottawa.

In the coming months, the Ottawa Hospital and Kemptville hospital plan to implement an integrated service delivery model for the emergency department.

"This model will ensure that patients accessing the KDH Emergency Department will have seamless and consistent care for the future," the Ottawa Hospital said in a statement.

The Kemptville District Hospital temporarily closed its emergency department for six days last September due to a staffing shortage.

Vassalo says the Kemptville District Hospital is exploring the possibility of having Ottawa nurses helping in the emergency department as well.

"We're optimistic that on the physician side, we'll have enough resources coming from our own KDH physicians and TOH contingent to operate 24-7," Vassalo said.

"We are working with the nurses and other allied health professionals as well," Vassalo told Newstalk 580 CFRA, adding the hospital is "exploring" using Ottawa Hospital nurses in its emergency department.

Both hospitals insist patients will not notice any difference in care at the Kemptville emergency department this summer.

"Our hospitals have worked together for many years, collaborating on ways to improve access to care for patients throughout our region," Cameron Love, The Ottawa Hospital President and CEO, said. "This partnership is another step in that approach, as we look at more ways to ensure patients receive the care they need."

In 2017, the two hospitals created an "innovative partnership" in orthopedic surgery, which saw surgeons from both hospitals perform joint replacement procedures at the Kemptville District Hospital operating facilities.

Several hospitals across eastern Ontario have been forced to temporarily close their emergency departments over the past year due to staffing shortages.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones says the Ontario government has a program in place to support hospitals.

"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," Hannah Jensen said.

"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.

"Our extern program, launched province wide in 2020, offers employment opportunities in hospitals to nursing and medical school students to work as externs. We are also supporting rural and remote hospitals by further expanding Emergency Department Peer-to-Peer Program providing physicians 24/7 access to on-demand, real-time support and coaching from highly experienced emergency physicians across Ontario via virtual channels."

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Dylan Dyson Top Stories

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