Island Health announces various service adjustments due to staffing shortages, COVID-19

Island Health announces various service adjustments due to staffing shortages, COVID-19

A significant number of changes are being made to the healthcare system on Vancouver Island due to ongoing staffing shortages stemming from the Omicron variant.

Island Health, in a press release issued Tuesday, announced that it has implemented several temporary service adjustments to strengthen patient care during Omicron-related COVID-19 staffing challenges.

“Omicron-driven COVID-19 staffing challenges significantly impact the ability of Island Health staff and medical staff to provide safe, quality care for those whom we are responsible to support. While temporarily pausing or changing services has a real impact on those who have to wait longer for care, we recognize it is necessary at this most extraordinary time,” Kathy MacNeil, Island Health’s president and CEO, said in a press release.

The changes are far-reaching across various sectors including, surgery and ambulatory care, ambulance diversions, staff deployment, and long-term care.

One such change is that Island Health has announced it has temporarily closed the Admirals Walk outpatient lab located at 1505 Admirals Rd. until April 1.

“Patients who routinely access this location can access services at the Victoria General Hospital outpatient lab,” the release notes.

Additionally, the health authority says hours have been reduced at the Sidney outpatient lab located at 2357 James White Blvd. to 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. weekdays and closed the lab temporarily Saturdays. Meanwhile, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital outpatient lab will re-instate Saturday hours 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Surgery and Ambulatory Care

According to the Island Health press release, elective, scheduled surgeries were postponed at the majority of hospitals in early January and will continue to be postponed until the end of the month at their three largest sites — Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH), Victoria General Hospital and Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The health authority says the remaining sites will begin restarting “where staffing levels support” and that the reduction of inpatient surgical services has reduced demand on inpatient beds and staffing requirements.

When it comes to ambulatory care services, Island Health says they have been slowed down to a point where services are only maintained for those with the “greatest” need.

The health authority says staffing levels at larger acute care sites are being improved through the redeployment of ambulatory and surgical staff to areas in critical demand.

“This is helping to stabilize daytime staffing hours and enabling other staff to move to weekend shifts to enhance staffing during times when it is most challenging,” the health authority’s press release notes.

Ambulance Diversions

Island Health says it has recently diverted ambulances at Saanich Peninsula Hospital from the emergency department over five days to allow the site to have fewer inpatients to ensure a manageable staff-to-patient ratio.

The health authority says it has also implemented rotating ambulance diversions at the emergency departments at Port Hardy Hospital (PHH) and Port McNeill Hospital (PMH) as required based on hospital staffing.

This, Island Health says, is to ensure the continued support of inpatient care at each site and provide emergency lab access in northern Vancouver Island.

Staffing levels

According to Island Health, staffing levels are being adjusted on a day-to-day and shift-by-shift basis, and in advance whenever possible.

This is being done in order to “balance risk and help utilize human resources most efficiently” across the entire healthcare system, says Island Health.

Island Health says, for example, that psychiatric emergency services (PES) are assessed on a shift-by-shift basis and that new admissions to the service may be temporarily paused when it is deemed “necessary.”

Furthermore, Island Health says patients may be temporarily cared for in the main emergency department or moved back to the main emergency department for safe care if they are already admitted to PES.

Long-term Care Service Adjustments:

According to Island Health, staffing at these sites is being monitored on a daily basis and contingency plans are in place, including re-scheduling activities or services to support clients and residents and shifting our staff across LTC sites as needed.

“These are not actions we want to take, and we don’t take them lightly knowing the impact they have on those we serve,” added MacNeil. “We are grateful to the residents of the communities of Vancouver Island for their understanding and continued support of our health care teams during this challenging time. We also acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of our teams who continue to work tireless to ensure patients receive the highest quality care possible despite these challenges.”




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