The All Nations Health Partners are encouraging residents to be kind, patient and understanding. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships and difficulties for everyone, but especially for healthcare workers. The pandemic has caused burnout and compassion fatigue for medical staff and has exacerbated the already short-staffed healthcare system.  

The All Nations Health Partners recently shared a statement discussing the systemic and emotional challenges that affect our healthcare system. Serena Joseph, Acting Executive Director of Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig (WNHAC), has more. 

“While demand for our services has always been greater than available resources, COVID-19 has only further illuminated gaps and health disparities faced by our clients. We are all doing our very best with the resources available," she says. 

These uncertain times have had serious implications for our local healthcare settings. Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital recently had to shut the doors to their emergency services for 24 hours due to a lack of available staff and the Lake of the Woods District Hospital has found itself in a similar situation as they have to close the intensive care unit.  

The health partners say that they are doing their best to combat shortages by redeploying staff to different settings to attempt to bridge the gap but that it is only a Band-Aid to a larger problem. They have even begun to use strategies such as hiring out-of-community agency nurses to cover shifts however, it has been extremely costly.  

These shortages have not only affected the mental health of staff but have also contributed to ever-increasing wait times to receive service. 

Regionally, the area also faces a shortage of general family medicine doctors. According to the release, our region should have at least 30+ general family medicine doctors but in reality, we only have 19 across the Family Health Network, Lake of the Woods District Hospital, Kenora Chiefs Advisory and Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig.  

In addition, the recent removal of many of the provincial COVID-19 restrictions has only caused more stress to the healthcare system. Provincially, we are entering the 6th wave of COVID-19 and professionals are anticipating the highest number of COVID-19 cases this region has ever seen.  

Colleen Neil, All Nations Health Partners Executive Lead and Executive Director at Sunset Country Family Health Team, shared her thoughts.

“Our most caring healthcare professionals are showing signs of suffering from near-total compassion fatigue. Relentless demands, lack of appreciation for their efforts, an intolerable push for process, procedure, and cost savings; the desperate lack of staff and support simply drained the capacity of those providers to be at their best," said Neil. 

“We can – and we must recruit for compassionate healthcare providers, but that compassion needs to be nurtured and retained, or we are just spinning our wheels. Improving morale must focus on minimizing compassion fatigue, and it is something every person can participate in," said Neil. 

“People come to us for help when they are not at their best and know those aspiring to provide care are not at their best. If we are going to be able to recruit more help, if we are going to be able to retain that help, we must help our helpers help us. We must be kind and compassionate, and they must be kind and understanding, but it truly is the “golden rule” for all of us," said Neil. 

“We have done everything we can through this pandemic to ensure that everyone who needs services, has access to services,” said All Nations Health Partners Co-Chair and Executive Director of Kenora Chiefs Advisory, Ogimaawabiitong Joe Barnes.  

“Our area has had a major issue with health human resources, and have had staff working in multiple roles, missing holidays and working around the clock to ensure we are meeting the health needs of everyone”, Barnes added.  

“I just want everyone to show all the health workers a little extra patience and extra kindness as they have been the true heroes of this pandemic, and continue to work tirelessly to take care of people," said Barnes. 

Despite the ongoing struggles, Ray Racette, President & CEO of Lake of the Woods District Hospital reaffirmed his pride in the healthcare staff.

“We are exceedingly proud of our staff, their commitment and dedication to serve, their resilience amidst all the changes they have endured, and the sacrifices they have made throughout this challenging time.”