Vancouver, August 4: For months, the district of Clearwater, B.C. has endured sporadic overnight closures of the emergency room at its local hospital. This week, the closures are growing more consistent.
Beginning Wednesday, the emergency department at Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital will be closed from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. for five straight nights because of “limited staffing availability,” according to Interior Health.
A statement from the health authority, posted on social media by the district’s mayor, indicates that the emergency department is scheduled to resume 24-hour service at 7 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 8.
During the closures, patients requiring emergency care are diverted to either Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops or 100 Mile House District General Hospital, both more than 100 kilometres away.
Rural health-care centres across the province have been suffering unexpected closures and hours reductions as the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and record numbers of toxic drug overdoses strain B.C.’s health-care system.
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.
Premier John Horgan was asked about the situation again Wednesday and maintained that all of Canada has been experiencing shortages of healthcare workers, emergency room closures, and lack of access to primary care.
He repeated his call for more funding from the federal government. Horgan and other premiers say Ottawa used to be a 50/50 partner in funding health care, but now only provides about one-fifth of the cost of the provincially delivered service.
“This is not a B.C. problem. It’s a national problem,” Horgan said. “Families concerned about being able to access primary care is a real and pressing problem, and we’re doing everything we can to address it. But it needs to be across the country, not just across the community.”