LHSC Epilepsy Monitoring Unit latest to be impacted by health-care worker shortage

London Health Sciences Centre’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) is the latest casualty of a strained health-care system, with staffing issues leading to the unit’s temporary closure.

LHSC said in a statement Friday it continues to provide critical care services to patients throughout the city and region, as well as inpatient electroencephalogram (EEG) testing, which measures electrical activity in the brain.

When asked how long the closure would last, LHSC told Global News it is expected to be a short-term shutdown.

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The reaction to the closure has been less than positive.

“I think it’s awful. You know, people go to the epilepsy unit for investigation for the potential to have surgery as a treatment option for epilepsy. I think the fact that the unit is closed is prolonging the possibility of, or postponing, surgeries and that’s actually the only cure for epilepsy,” said Michelle Franklin, CEO of Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario.

Franklin told Global News that staffing issues in the EMU have been going on for years. She believes they are connected to a lack of EEG technicians.

“An EEG is a very specialized procedure that helps identify or confirm a diagnosis of epilepsy and is also used to evaluate a candidate for the possibility of surgery,” Franklin said.

“So I think that the EEG crisis, I’ll call it, has been ongoing for a couple of years, and then you add COVID on top of that and staff vacations, and now it’s really coming to a head.”

News of this closure came from a Twitter post from co-director of epilepsy program at LHSC Dr. Jorge Burneo.

On Tuesday, Burneo tweeted: “The situation in our #epilepsy unit at @LHSCCanada has arrived at a critical point. After many months dealing with lack of support from the union and the HR office, we have to close for a month. We do apologize to all our patients in the waiting list. We will reopen in September.”

LHSC responded to Burneo’s post, saying that critical and inpatient EEG services for patients would continue.

Burneo then updated his tweet to say that while the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit will be closed for all outpatient procedures until September, ICU and EEG services will continue.

Earlier this week, LHSC reported an increase in wait times for emergency room patients due to ongoing staffing issues.

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In a statement posted to Twitter, LHSC said the health-care organization has been dealing with staff illnesses, retirements and resignations. In the last year, the hospital network said it has hired 436 new staff members to compensate for the losses.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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