Eleven doctors issue warning in signed letter from Salt Spring Island hospital

Eleven doctors issue warning in signed letter from Salt Spring Island hospital
A group of eleven doctors from Salt Spring Island's only hospital have released an urgent communique concerning a shortage of physicians at their medical facility.

Staff at Lady Minto Hospital are speaking out on a major staffing shortage.

A group of 11 doctors from Salt Spring Island’s only hospital released an urgent communique Friday concerning a shortage of physicians at their medical facility.

The letter, issued through the community’s local publication, The Driftwood, outlines four significant deficiencies in the facility’s emergency department.

It starts by pointing out that the hospital emergency room is facing a severe shortage of physicians, saying there are currently 25 12-hour shifts that are going uncovered from now until the end of August.

On top of that, residents are finding themselves without an on-site physician at the hospital’s emergency department, and they’re warning that there’s no easy alternative as Lady Minto Hospital is the only facility in the region. They say that despite the lack of any on-site physicians, the emergency department remains able to provide medical assessments.

“Unfortunately, the emergency department is as busy as ever due to the very high number of unattached patients that have no family doctor and the increasing medical complexity of the aging population of Salt Spring Island,” reads the letter.

The shortage at the facility stretches beyond just the emergency room. The letter says the hospital is also faced with a shortage of specialized healthcare services in the form of a lack of maternal services and psychiatry.

“The absence of key specialty staff on Salt Spring Island is negatively impacting patient care and our community. Your support and public knowledge are needed to work through this crisis and come together with solutions,” ends the letter.

The letter highlights an ongoing issue affecting the entire region, and comes as an overloaded healthcare system continues to show strain from shortages, burnout and closures.

In April, Cormorant Island’s emergency room shuttered for the third time this year.

In a statement provided to CHEK News, Island Health says it’s aware of the challenges facing Lady Minto’s emergency department.

“We remain committed to working with the Lady Minto physicians to address staffing challenges,” reads the statement.

“Recruitment efforts for physicians and nurses continue. Recent recruitment efforts over the winter have led to 17 new nursing hires starting between January and June, and a new physician is expected to join in July.”

According to Island Health, when the hospital experiences overnight staffing challenges, patients may experience an alternative model of care in the emergency department, including adjusting available physicians to the daytime hours when the emergency department is busiest.

“When this occurs, the following adjustments are made: At Lady Minto Hospital, overnight between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., when five patients typically attend the emergency department, people with non-urgent medical needs may experience longer waits or be given the option to go home and return to the emergency department the following morning,” says Island Health.

“There may also be occasions when an off-site physician will support the emergency department care team remotely. This model of care has been successfully used on four occasions this spring.”

The health authority encourages people needing emergency care to call 911 or go to their nearest ER. Advice from a registered nurse is also available toll-free, 24/7, by calling HealthLink BC at 811.

“Inpatient care in all other units at both hospitals is not affected by this temporary adjustment,” adds Island Health. “Lady Minto is not currently on diversion for low-risk maternity care.”

READ MORE: Cormorant Island emergency department to have weekend closures again

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