Changes coming to two Island Health ERs in face of staffing shortage

Changes coming to two Island Health ERs in face of staffing shortage
WatchPatients may find even longer waits at two Island Health ERs in the months ahead due to staffing shortages.

They were the heroes of the pandemic but now the years of stress and burnout are taking their toll on healthcare workers contributing to a serious staffing shortage.

“We’re having a handful of physicians and nurses either walk away or do things either for their personal safety or their own personal well-being,” said Doctors of BC President Dr. Joshua Greggain.

According to emergency room physician Dr. Jeff Unger it’s one of the key reasons Saanich Peninsula’s ER will be facing overnight staff shortages in the months ahead.

There, an on-call physician will only support patients with serious medical needs and patients can expect much longer waits than usual.

Unger says the changes aren’t just a result of COVID-19 burnout but an overall lack of staffing across the care team, from doctors and nurses to cleaners and unit clerks. It all comes in the face of dramatically increasing patient demand.

It’s not the only Island Health facility facing critical shortages that could impact patient care.

Eleven doctors submitted a letter to the local Salt Spring Island newspaper warning of a “severe staffing shortage of physicians covering emergency room shifts” noting that “there are twenty-five 12-hour shifts that are not covered for the period up until the end of August.”

“I think we were on diversion for one day last week where the hospital says to folks look if this isn’t an emergency please go home, see us later, if it is an emergency come in, and if they don’t have the staff they have to airlift people out of here or send them by ambulance on a ferry,” said Lady Minto Hospital Foundation Executive Director Roberta Martell.

Martell says a lack of housing on Salt Spring is one of the biggest barriers to bringing in more healthcare staff.

“Last week there were two positions that they hired and these folks turned down the job for a lack of housing.”

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Island health says it’s aware of the issues and that it’s adding 17 new nurses at Lady Minto between January and June and that a new physician will join in July.

Even with the changes in service at the Lady Minto and Saanich Peninsula ER’s Island Health says anyone needing emergency care should still go to their local emergency room and/or call 911.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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