Emergency departments at hospitals on northern Vancouver Island are once again closing due to limited staffing availability this weekend.
Port McNeill Hospital’s emergency department will be closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and Port Hardy Hospital’s will be closed from 7 p.m. on Saturday to 7 a.m. on Sunday, according to a statement from Island Health.
“During this time, all other inpatient services will continue as normal at PMH and PHH,” the health authority said.
The upcoming closures mark the second time in the last four weeks that both hospitals have faced emergency room closures on the same weekend.
Port McNeill Hospital’s emergency department has also experienced closures on some weekends that Port Hardy Hospital’s has not.
The two hospitals, located about a 30-minute drive from one another, are each other’s primary diversion locations when an emergency room is closed.
“Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should call 911 or, if possible, proceed to the appropriate hospital,” Island Health said in its statement Friday.
“Island Health and BC Emergency Health Services have protocols in place to ensure patients are transported to the appropriate site.”
The repeated closures due to limited staff are a phenomenon that has been repeated around the island, throughout the province and across the country in recent months, as Canada’s health-care system struggles to cope with employee stress, burnout, summer vacations and staff illness after two and a half years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, Statistics Canada released the results of its July Labour Force Survey, which found that one-in-five nurses worked paid overtime during the month. Statistics Canada also found that there were three times as many nursing vacancies at the start of 2022 as there were five years ago.
Earlier this year, a poll from the Hospital Employees Union suggested one in three B.C. health-care workers are likely to leave the profession in the next two years due to stress and burnout.
Asked about emergency department closures, access to primary care, and other health-care issues this week, Premier John Horgan said his government has been “doing everything (it) can” to address the situation, but stressed the national nature of the crisis and the need for more funding from the federal government.
“I had the premiers from all across the country here just a few weeks ago,” Horgan said Wednesday. “Our number one ask of the federal government was, if we have a national health-care program governed by the Canada Health Act, we need an equal partner to make sure we have sustainable funding.”
“We need a national plan. That’s been pretty clear. It’s not just me. It’s Conservative premiers, Liberal premiers, it’s not a question of perspective. It’s a question of necessity.”