Overnight closures at Saanich Peninsula Hospital emergency department to continue


Overnight closures at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital emergency department will continue as the hospital continues to struggle with doctor recruitment.

“We don’t have enough physicians to maintain 24/7 operations,” said Marko Peljhan, vice president of Island Health’s clinical services for the central/south Island.

When initially announced in July, the overnight closures at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital were set to end on Sept. 4, but Tuesday morning, Island Health announced an extension of those closures.

READ PREVIOUS: Saanich Peninsula Hospital emergency department to close overnight for two months

Island Health told CHEK News the doctors they’d been planning to recruit had been “unexpectedly delayed” resulting in the indefinite overnight closures.

“We’re actively looking at recruiting physicians. We are also working with staff on what other staff will be needed to open 24/7,” said Peljhan.

A systemic healthcare issue that’s rooted elsewhere

Successful recruitment may solve the issue at Saanich Peninsula’s emergency room, but the physician shortage is province, even nationwide.

Doctors of BC say right now, roughly 1,200 other ERs across Canada are experiencing closures.

“We don’t have an urgent care problem. We don’t have an emergency room problem. We have a primary care problem,” said Johsua Greggain, president of Doctors of BC.

Not enough family doctors, a problem that’s been growing since the 1990s, is now creating problems for the healthcare system as a whole.


At least one Saanich Peninsula mayor is trying to find solutions from a municipal level.

“Can we create housing spaces? We’re working with one housing proponent at the moment to see if there’s a way to dedicate housing to locum doctors for example to alleviate some of the challenges,” said Ryan Windsor, Central Saanich’s mayor.

Nationwide and international recruitment may offer temporary relief, meanwhile, Greggain says training more doctors locally and reducing the administrative burden on physicians would help unclog the system, so doctors and nurses can focus on what they’re trained to do.

No end to closures, yet

This time, the health authority has not set an end date for the overnight closures.

“We are working very hard to get back to 24/7 operations here and we expect to do so this fall,” said Peljhan.

From 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. nightly, the emergency department will close, and patients will be redirected to Royal Jubilee or Victoria General hospitals.

People in the area who are experiencing a medical emergency should call 911 or go to the Royal Jubilee or Victoria General hospitals if possible. If you call 911, BC Emergency Health Services has protocols to ensure you are brought to an open emergency department.

Only the emergency department is affected, all other in-patient services will continue.

Island Health says before the closures, the Saanich Peninsula emergency department would see an average of 13 patients between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Since the closures, the Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals have seen an average of fewer than three patients from the Saanich Peninsula.

In an interview with CHEK News, Peljhan says there are a few possibilities for where those 10 patients may have gone.

“Our data here indicates that we’ve had an increase in visits in the evening and in the morning as well. So some people may be choosing to come in before the closure or waiting to come in until the morning,” Peljhan said.

“And when we look at the data, about a third of [the 13 nightly visitors from before the closure] are coming from areas outside of the Saanich Peninsula. So they might be coming from South Saanich, they might be coming from the Western Communities. So those individuals probably now or are also attending the Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals.”

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway
Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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