The emergency department at Port McNeill Hospital (PMH) will be temporarily shuttered again this weekend and a lack of staff is to blame, according to Island Health.
The health authority in a service notice says the PMH ER is facing another closure due to “limited staff availability,” this time from 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9 until 7 a.m. Monday, Sept. 12.
During the closure, Island Health says all other inpatient services will continue as normal, and encourages locals with a medical emergency to call 911 or, if possible, head to Port Hardy’s hospital, which is a half-hour drive away.
“The fact that people have to drive to another community is concerning,” Adriane Gear, B.C. Nurses’ Union (BCNU) vice president, told CHEK News following a similar closure in mid-August.
“Time matters,” Gear said.
Island Health calls the upcoming closure “not an ideal situation for the community.” It says it has teamed up with BC Emergency Health Services to have protocols in place to ensure patients are transported to the appropriate site.
Last month, Island Health recognized that it was an “extremely challenging” time on the North Island, saying emergency room closures and scaled-back hours at hospitals were causing major waits at other facilities.
Emergency departments at hospitals in Port McNeill, Port Hardy and Alert Bay have faced repeated closures in recent months, with the Cormorant Island Community Health Centre ER closed overnight for all of August.
Amid a health-care worker shortage, Island Health on Sept. 1 announced that two new family doctors had relocated to the North Island to work at the Port McNeill Primary Care Clinic.
Yet James Hanson, Island Health vice-president of Central and North Island clinical operations, said there was a 40 per cent vacancy rate for staff nurses at both the Port Hardy and McNeill hospitals, with COVID-19 sick calls making things worse.
“We are not at all satisfied with the situation in the North Island, and access to care in that region is a huge priority for us,” Hanson told Canada’s National Observer last month.
Island Health recently formed a task force of representatives who aim to ensure “reliable and predictable” emergency and acute care services for patients, along with access to primary care.