A staffing issue at a Greater Victoria hospital caused its emergency room to close overnight.
The emergency department at Saanich Peninsula Hospital stopped accepting new patients Saturday evening, according to a tweet from Island Health. They said the emergency room would stay closed overnight until 7 a.m. Sunday.
One patient, Caitlyn Sabyan, who witnessed staff turn people away, said it was heartbreaking to watch.
“There’s not enough of them and they’re doing everything they can to provide the best care under those situations,” she said.
While Sabyan was taken care of, she described how spooky it was inside.
“They took me to the back and it was eerie. It was a ghost town. There were no staff. The doctor was doing everything she could for me. She was amazing,” she explained.
In an email statement on Sunday, Island Health told CHEK News that the closure was due to a staffing shortage.
“Safe delivery of care for our patients is our highest priority. The emergency department at Saanich Peninsula Hospital was on diversion from 7 o’clock last night until 7 this morning because of a nurse staffing shortage,” the statement read.
“Diversion is a last resort, and we try our very best to cover shifts but there are times, despite these efforts, that these temporary shortages occur,” it continued.
One nurse who works at the hospital but wanted to remain anonymous out of concern for his job, said he’s surprised by the closure because there are usually plans in place for situations like this.
“The reason I’m surprised though is that we also use agency nurses to fill gaps,” he said.
He also said the hospital has been critically short-staffed for months and he’s seen many nurses leave due to burnout.
Patients were asked by Island Health to go to the emergency rooms at Victoria General Hospital or Royal Jubilee Hospital if they needed emergency services or to call 911, according to Island Health.
A Facebook post from Island Health directed people who weren’t sure if their conditions needed an emergency visit to phone HealthLink BC at 811 or visit the HealthLink BC website.
The Emergency Department at Saanich Peninsula Hospital is not accepting new patients until 7 a.m. tomorrow due to a staffing issue. Please go to the Emergency Departments at Victoria General Hopsital or Royal Jubilee Hospital if you require emergency services or call 9-1-1. pic.twitter.com/U7seYblgyN
— Island Health (@VanIslandHealth) August 22, 2021
University of Saskatchewan professor and epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine explained hospitals are stretched thin across the country.
“Turning away patients who need care is a very, very difficult thing to do. No doctor really wants to do that. No hospital wants to do that. Certainly, not in Canada. Not anywhere really. And I think this is significant because in this instance, the capacity has been overrun,” he said.
Muhajarine said he fears things will get worse in the coming months with the contagious Delta variant spreading across the country and kids left unvaccinated and heading to school soon.
He expects hospitals will be overflowing with patients unless the government implements safety measures now, including proof of vaccination and mandatory masking.
READ MORE: Island Health unveils plans to scale back mass immunization clinics