MHC looks to fill ultrasound staff shortage

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MANITOULIN—Due to staff shortages in ultrasound at the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC), unless a patient’s case is urgent or emergent, Manitoulin residents have to go to Espanola or Sudbury hospitals to access the service.

“We’ve been very vocal on the need for more nurses and doctors, but we have to be vocal as well about the need for other professional staff such as ultrasound technicians,” stated Paula Fields, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC). “The pandemic has been very difficult on everyone and, in some cases, people who are close to retirement are leaving.” 

Ms. Fields made the comments after noting there is a staffing shortage at MHC in ultrasound services. “We received sudden notice that one of our part-time ultrasound technicians was relocating. And we currently have one ultrasound technician out on maternity leave. This leaves one ultrasound technician on hand for both (MHC) hospital facilities.”

“We have seen shortage in nurses throughout the province but have to recognize that there is a shortage as well in lab technicians,” said Ms. Fields, “and that all clinicians have been impacted by COVID-19, especially in small, rural places.” 

Ms. Fields explained, “we have an extensive recruitment program in place to find (an ultrasound technician) who will be a good fit for the MHC and will stay here to work part-time. We are considering looking at a locum agency for ultrasound technical services. We need one person to work part-time, or two people, one part-time person and a casual person; it is hard to find someone like this unless they are retiring here on Manitoulin Island.”  

“It’s challenging,” admitted Ms. Fields. “We’ve been vocal about the need for nursing and for physicians at the Gore Bay Medical Centre and family health teams, but we also need to be vocal about the need for lab technicians and other professional staff.”

“We have given direction to our professional staff that urgent ultrasounds can be done at the MHC in Little Current,” said Ms. Fields. However, “If non-urgent ultrasound services are required, patients will have to travel to Espanola or Sudbury hospitals for these services. We are working on this on a patient case-by-case situation. For example, some patients can’t travel, or they can’t get a day off for ultrasound, we are trying to accommodate these patients.”

In Indigenous communities, medical transportation is available, but the patient may have children and caregivers at home so this makes it difficult for the patient to travel, said Ms. Fields.

“We are doing our best, and we’re hoping to recruit additional ultrasound technicians,” said Ms. Fields. “There is always a small group of graduates each year with these unique skills. Unless they have a  reason to move to the Island or their spouse can get a job on the Island, it is hard to recruit them here.” 

“As soon as we found out that one of our part-time ultrasound technicians was relocating, we reached out to Espanola and Sudbury hospitals,” said Ms. Fields. “Espanola Hospital is one of our amazing community partners and they have said they will extend their hours of service to meet our needs and they have assisted us in recruiting efforts. We have a great relationship with our hospital partners. We are doing our best for the community, we know the situation is very stressful for patients, but hopefully a solution will be found soon.”