A diversion of services

Brandon Anstey
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JPMRHC obstetrical and pediatric services temporarily diverted

Obstetrical and pediatric services at the James Paton Memorial Regional Health Centre are once again being temporarily diverted to the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls -Windsor.

ON THE LOOKOUT – Rosemarie Goodyear, CEO of Central Health, said strong recruitment efforts are being made to find pediatricians for JPMRHC. The lack of pediatricians is causing a diversion of services.

The unavailability of a full-time pediatrician prompted Central Health on Jan. 21 to advise the public that pediatric and obstetrical delivery services would be diverted to Grand Falls-Windsor in a scheduled manner. Rosemarie Goodyear, CEO of Central Health, said it’s a problem JPMRHC has been dealing because of a lack of full-time pediatricians.

“The challenge for us originates with our pediatric service,” said Ms. Goodyear. “The pediatric and obstetrical services are very complimentary to one another.”

The hospital is able to handle the obstetrical services, but pediatric service is where it comes up short.

“We certainly have adequate staffing of physicians on the obstetrical side of things, but we are challenged on the pediatric side,” she said. “ We would like to have, at a minimum, two full-time and one half-time pediatricians but right now we only have a half-time (pediatrician).”

Central Health’s recruiting efforts have secured a full-time pediatrician who will sign on full-time in April, and it is seeking to recruit an additional full-time pediatrician to fill the current service void.

“We have signed on one full-time pediatrician, and they will actually be starting in April,” said Ms. Goodyear. “We’ll be continuing our recruitment efforts to fill the other spot.”

The hospital has been filling the gap by bringing in doctors from outside the hospital’s staff.

“We’ve been using locum services, which are qualified physicians who come for short periods of time,” she said. “They may come from other parts of the province, across Canada and even outside of Canada,” stating one of the physicians had come over from America.

Ms. Goodyear said JPMRHC works with other medical sites to schedule a diversion of services or physicians, but it leaves the Gander hospital a little vulnerable in terms of the pediatric service it can provide.

“Unfortunately, where that leaves us is that some points in time we may have these short gaps between one provider (locum) leaving and another arriving.”

This, she said, has been causing the diversions of pediatric services.

“When we do have these short gaps, we are diverting services to the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor.”

The temporary gaps in services will continue into April until a full-time pediatrician is on staff at JPMRHC. The plan now, said Ms. Goodyear, is for Central Health to reach out to the public and inform them of diversion schedules.

“We have put whatever information we have available out to the public. The schedule now that we have, where we don’t have services and where we do, is available to the public on Central Health’s website (www.centralhealth.nl.ca). We’ve also made it available to all of our providers who would typically interact with this group of people.”

Central Health’s CEO also reminds people to check the diversion schedule, as it is subject to change.

“It is the type of information that we will be updating on a regular basis.”

While there are scheduled gaps in services, Central Health is still putting an effort into recruiting a physician to fill the gap.

“Anywhere there is currently gaps in the schedule, where we would be diverting to CNRHC, we’re continuing to work on filling those gaps,” said Ms. Goodyear. “If there’s two days in the schedule where we currently don’t have anyone, recruitment staff are continuing to reach out to qualified providers to see if we could fill those particular gaps.”

The availability of pediatric services at JPMRC has been dependent on locum services and the half-time pediatrician on the Gander hospital’s staff.

The diversion of services and lack of pediatricians at JPMRHC is not a normal problem, said Ms. Goodyear. The issue will see a bit of resolve upon the arrival of a new pediatrician.

“It’s a bit non-typical for us because we have two pediatric positions vacant.

When we get our pediatrician in April, we’ll still be short one physician, but it certainly be a lot easier for us to fill one position with locums, than it is to fill two.”

This will cause diversions of services to be cut down after April.

“We’re feeling very confident that it should be minimum post-April, in terms of any diversions to services.”

There is a big challenge to recruit pediatricians in today’s medical market because a lot of the physicians specialize in a certain area, and the JPMRHC offers a more generalized care service, said Ms. Goodyear.

“It is a challenge right now. We’re finding a lot of pediatricians are sub-specializing in areas of pediatrics: They may be a pediatrician who specializes in care within the intensive care unit or in pediatric care in cardiology for example. Of course, you only find those opportunities at much larger centres that care for high numbers of sick children.”

The care at JPMRHC is a more general type of pediatrics, which is causing issues with recruiting new physicians.

“It’s a very general type of area,” said the Central Health CEO, “Certainly, the group of pediatricians who are now working in that area is smaller than it used to be. It means the field is much more competitive in terms of trying to secure pediatricians to come and work in the area.”

For now, Ms. Goodyear said it’s a good idea for patients to stay updated on the diversion schedule, and advises patients to incorporate the schedule into their plans, but JPMRHC is prepared in case of an urgent emergency.

“We’re trying to get the information out there as timely as we can, and certainly asking our clients, if they are unsure as to if we have the service at James Paton or not, to check on the website or give our staff a call at the obstetrical unit. If they feel their delivery is imminent and there’s a sense of urgency, then certainly they would come to James Paton.”

 

banstey@ganderbeacon.ca

Organizations: Gander hospital, Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre

Geographic location: Grand Falls-Windsor, Canada, America

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