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Emergency department in Clearwater, B.C. hit by more staffing shortages and overnight closures

Click to play video: 'Persistent staffing shortages in emergency health care'
Persistent staffing shortages in emergency health care
WATCH: In the ongoing emergency health care crisis, a number of communities in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are said to be understaffed by paramedics - or unstaffed altogether. Grace Ke reports – Aug 21, 2022

Clearwater and nearby residents are being advised that the overnight emergency department at Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital will not be available for six more days.

“Emergency services will not be available starting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 until 7 a.m. the following mornings,” Interior Health staff said.

The emergency department will be open during the day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on those days.

The closures are due to “limited nursing availability.”

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

Interior Health said people that need emergency medical attention should still call 911 or head to the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops or 100 Mile House District General Hospital.

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The community has been experiencing repeated closures due to staffing issues.

Mayor Merlin Blackwell said the hospital has had more than two dozen closures 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, back in July.

“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.

Read more: Clearwater, B.C. mayor speaks out about repeated hospital ER closures

Interior Health has also previously acknowledged that the closures are ongoing and that the health authority is doing its best to address the staffing shortages.

“When we make the difficult decision to close a rural ER, patient safety is always top of mind,” Interior Health staff said.

“We recognize that interruptions to emergency department services are concerning to the community and Interior Health medical and site leadership in Clearwater is 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.”

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The closure came as the Ambulance Paramedics of BC released a statement criticizing the understaffing of ambulances, saying vehicles in Maple Ridge, the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver sat idle this weekend.

Union president Troy Clifford says in a statement that this weekend has showcased a province-wide trend of ambulances sitting empty that “seems to have no end.”

“We are urging the public to be aware that there could be significant delays in service, and use 911 when someone’s health or safety is at risk, use 811 when unsure,” Clifford said in a statement Saturday.

Click to play video: 'Changes could be coming to address ambulance shortages'
Changes could be coming to address ambulance shortages

— With files from Global BC’s Simon Little and Canadian Press.

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