Limited staff availability means an emergency department on northern Vancouver Island is closing its doors to the public for 48 hours starting Friday evening, according to Island Health.
The health authority says the Port Hardy Hospital (PHH) emergency room will once again be temporarily closed, this time from 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19 until 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21.
That’s sparking concern from B.C. Nurses’ Union (BCNU) vice president Adriane Gear.
“If you’re having a health crisis, maybe you’re having cardiac symptoms or symptoms of a stroke or you’ve been involved in an accident and you’re injured, time matters. That’s why we have emergency departments,” Gear told CHEK News.
In a service notice, Island Health advises those in Port Hardy who experience a medical emergency during the closure to call 911 or, if possible, head to the Port McNeill Hospital.
“The fact that people have to drive to another community is concerning,” noted Gear in an interview. “In some instances, it would be fine, but in those true emergencies, that’s really putting patients in a very vulnerable position.”
“Time matters,” she reiterated.
The upcoming closure comes as staffing shortages plague other Island Health facilities, including Cormorant Island’s only emergency room located in Alert Bay. It’s seeing overnight closures until Aug. 31, two weeks longer than initially anticipated.
“Residents aren’t happy with the closures,” Alert Bay Mayor Dennis Buchanan told The Canadian Press, also noting hospitals throughout the region are seeing the staffing strain.
Earlier this month on the North Island, the emergency departments at both Port McNeill Hospital (PMH) and PHH were closed overnight on the weekend of Aug. 6 and 7.
Island Health says all other inpatient services will continue as usual during the PHH’s emergency room closure, with protocols in place to ensure patients are transported to the appropriate site if necessary.
“Island Health acknowledges this is not an ideal situation for the community and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience experienced by this temporary service reduction,” it added.
In recent weeks, Island Health has said that it’s continuing to work on recruitment and strategies to secure additional nursing coverage with hopes of resuming 24/7 emergency services at impacted sites.
Yet Gear’s pleading for short and long-term plans not just in Island Health, but in all health authorities across B.C. to ensure appropriate staffing levels are met and ongoing closures subside.
“There are different strategies that aren’t even being explored,” Gear added.
“It’s mind-boggling to me.”