Concerns raised over string of temporary ER closures at rural B.C. hospitals

The Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater, B.C. Twitter/Interior Health

Once again, Interior Health has announced that the emergency department at a hospital in Clearwater, B.C., is on diversion because of low staffing.

The Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital will be temporarily closed overnight from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Aug. 3 to Aug. 7. It will remain open on these days from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Interior Health said the diversion is due to “limited staffing availability.”

People are being asked to go to the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops or the 100 Mile House District General Hospital.

The BC Rural Health Network has voiced concern surrounding the many diversions at hospital ERs in recent weeks.

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In a news release on Thursday, the organization said health care in rural B.C. has become a “significant public safety concern.”

“The BC Rural Health Network is overwhelmed with public complaints, concerns, and reports of serious health impacts that reduction of services has created,” said spokesperson Paul Adams.

“Every day rural residents’ wellbeing is being affected by the services removed, reduced, and understaffed.”

The group questions why rural residents must suffer when resources are diverted to larger urban centres.

“Our membership and the residents of rural BC cannot continue to have services taken or diverted to support larger urban populations,” said Peggy Skelton, BC Rural Health Network’s president.

“BC rural communities are continually used as a buffer for staff shortages in larger centres and the negative impact on rural residents’ compounds.”

Leonard Casley, mayor of the small village of New Denver in the West Kootenay, has also laid out concerns with his community’s emergency department.

“Last week the Interior Health Authority reduced our emergency operating hours to 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week (again and indefinitely),” he said in the news release.

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“Going into this last long weekend there was one available ambulance attendant for our community, the community of Nakusp and the entire surrounding populations!”

Click to play video: 'Woman dies of cardiac arrest after ambulance and ER issues in Ashcroft, B.C.'
Woman dies of cardiac arrest after ambulance and ER issues in Ashcroft, B.C.

The comments come just a few weeks after a woman in Ashcroft died due to a cardiac arrest, despite living right near the hospital. That emergency department was closed due to a staffing shortage.

Global News has reached out to Interior Health for further comment.

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