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Some Ontario hospitals, particularly those in smaller communities, are warning that recent emergency department closures may recur throughout the summer.

Several ERs in communities such as Perth, Clinton, Listowel and Wingham, have had to close recently for hours or even days at a time.

Others, such as in the northern community of Red Lake, have managed to narrowly avert pending closures, but say they expect further disruptions this summer.

Karl Ellis, president and CEO of the Listowel Wingham Hospital Alliance, says staffing is always a challenge in the summer in smaller hospitals, but this is the first time in the 20 years he has been in the field that they have had to close an emergency department.

Ellis says one of the hospital sites has eight full-time staff and four are on maternity or sick leave, and it’s difficult to backfill those jobs because they are getting fewer applicants than usual, pointing to a nursing staffing crisis across the province.

The Ontario Nurses’ Association has said the shortage is caused by nurses leaving the profession partly due to burnout after more than two years on the front lines of the pandemic.

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