Shortage of anesthesiologists the latest crisis at Niagara hospitals


Published January 31, 2023 at 12:56 pm

Worker shortages at hospitals across the country has been the norm even pre-pandemic but health centres in Niagara are facing a very specific issue.

At the moment, they are dealing with a shortage of anesthesiologists.

“We currently have 25 anesthesiologists with 20 available for on-call work. Of those, up to six are eligible to retire this year. In order to maintain the current level of service, we need 30 of these specialists,” said the health unit.

When the surgical schedules at the Welland Site (formerly the Welland General Hospital) are adjusted on Feb. 27, the new shortage is yet another wrinkle in the issues facing Niagara Health as 2023 continues on.

However, the anesthesiologist shortage could be a particularly tricky problem to solve as it’s a much wider issue, says Niagara Health.

“There is a national and provincial shortage of anesthesiologists despite very successful recruitment in the past. Because of the shortage, we have been unable to replace recent departures and have expected future retirements,” they said.

With the surgical rescheduling due to shift out of the Welland hospital on Feb. 27 and into the Niagara Falls and St. Catharines facilities in its stead, Niagara Health is looking to get a regular operating routine back into the unit.

“While not-yet-finalized, we are working on a model that will allow us to continue operating at the Welland Site Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” they said.

However, they did add, “Our emergency departments and medical services in Welland, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines will remain open at all times.”

When the Welland Site operating room due to be closed starting Feb. 27 from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. during weekdays and around the clock on Saturdays and Sundays, emergency and urgent surgical cases from the Welland Site will be transferred to the Niagara Falls hospital overnight and on weekends while the St. Catharines hospital will continue to receive transfers for vascular surgery and obstetrics cases at all times.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its previous version to clarify that the new surgical schedules, among other changes, will come into effect at the Welland Site later this month. We regret the error.

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