Staff shortage to blame for immediate, temporary closure at Port Hardy emergency department

Staff shortage to blame for immediate, temporary closure at Port Hardy emergency department

Island Health is advising those on the North Island of an immediate, temporary closure of the emergency department at Port Hardy Hospital amid a worker shortage.

In a service notice this morning, Island Health said Port Hardy’s ER would be closed immediately until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20 due to “limited staff availability.”

According to the health authority, all other inpatient services will continue as normal at the hospital during the closure. It urges anyone experiencing an emergency to call 911 or, if possible, proceed to the ER at Port McNeill Hospital.

“The fact that people have to drive to another community is concerning,” said Adriane Gear, B.C. Nurses’ Union vice president, in an interview with CHEK News following a similar closure in August.

“Time matters,” Gear said.

In its notice, Island Health said the closure is not ideal for the community and apologized for any inconvenience experienced.

“Island Health and BC Emergency Health Services have protocols in place to ensure patients who call 911 are transported to the appropriate site,” it added.

If someone is unsure if they are experiencing a medical situation requiring a visit to an ER, confidential health advice is available by calling HealthLink BC at 811.

READ ALSO: Port McNeill Hospital emergency department to once again close over weekend

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 closure, originally expected to end Aug. 16, now extended to Sept. 30.

This past weekend, for example, a staff shortage temporarily closed Port McNeill’s ER from Friday evening (Sept. 16) until Sunday morning (Sept. 18). 

Recently, mayors in rural B.C. communities, including Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom, called on the province to fix hospital staffing shortages.

In July, BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, told Canadian Press that the health care system is collapsing in some communities.

READ ALSO: Primary health care ‘collapsing’ in B.C. rural communities, critics say

In August, Island Health’s VP of Central and North Island clinical operations, James Hanson, 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.

That prompted Island Health to recently form a task force of representatives who aim to ensure “reliable and predictable” emergency and acute care services for patients and access to primary care.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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