The mayor of Clearwater, B.C., is raising new concerns about the repeated closure of the community’s emergency department.
Clearwater’s ER was put on diversion overnight Friday, and then again from Saturday evening until Monday morning due to staffing issues.
Mayor Merlin Blackwell said the closures were just the latest in more than two dozen since the start of 2022.
“It’s getting a little concerning, especially with the communications coming out of Interior Health now,” Blackwell told Global News Morning.
“The Saturday closure was announced on Sunday, and even more concerning … is actually I am hearing now that ambulance crews were unaware and showed up with a patient.”
The ambulance was forced to take the patient another hour-and-a-half away to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, Blackwell said.
In a statement, Interior Health acknowledged that notifications about the diversion “did not happen in a timely manner,” and apologized to patients, Monday.
“When we make the difficult decision to close a rural ED, patient safety is always top of mind,” it said.
“We recognize that interruptions to emergency department services are concerning to the community and Interior Health medical and site leadership in Clearwater are dedicated to doing everything possible to maintain full coverage whenever possible. We also continue to actively recruit for additional staff, with recruitment efforts occurring across the country.”
Clearwater was just one of five rural or smaller communities to see closures or diversions over the weekend.
Staffing shortages also prompted closures at in Oliver, Port Hardy, Port MacNeill and Ashcroft.
Blackwell said he was meeting with a manager from Interior Health later Monday to discuss concerns.
The hospital needs four additional ER certified nurses, along with several more licensed practical nurses, he added.
Blackwell said he believes to solve the staffing issues, the health authority needs to address working conditions and burnout and create an inviting environment for doctors and nurses.
“This is about making the workplace a better place for our nurses, doctors and RNs. There are enough nurses, doctors and RNs in our region to cover these shifts, they just don’t want to come in and work, they’re burnt out, some of them are off sick,” he said.
“How do we do what we did with COVID and make the system pivot and do that with nursing, and doctors, and shifting and all the things that need to happen now to stabilize the system?”