Healthcare workers rush a patient on a gurney toward a door that reads EMERGENCY. The picture is blurry.

Photo Credit: Healthline

Port McNeill Emergency Room Forced to Close This Weekend

Folks will have to travel for care as COVID-induced nursing shortage hits home

Medical staff and services on NorthIsle continue to struggle

This weekend, Port McNeill residents and visitors who need emergency medical care will have to go all the way to Port Hardy hospital for treatment. 

Island Health has announced that the Port McNeill Hospital emergency department will be closed from 7 a.m. on May 13 until 7 a.m. on May 16. That’s so there can be enough staff to take care of patients already in the hospital.

Sure, this is temporary. But it’s the second time this has happened in three months. And that’s on top of Port Alice losing its x-ray services.

According to a statement by Island Health, it’s part of a much bigger problem. 

“The staffing challenges experienced on the North Island are not unique to that region—there is a national shortage of healthcare providers, affecting all provider groups, including nursing.”

That may be so, but it’s cold comfort for folks in small towns on NorthIsle.

Adriane Gear is the vice president of the BC Nurses’ Union. She told the Times Colonist that smaller places like Port McNeill and Port Hardy are having real trouble. These hospitals already don’t have enough staff, so losing one nurse to illness has a big effect.

If folks need to drive to a bigger place like Campbell River to get care, it’s a two-hour trip. And the Campbell River Hospital is also short on nurses.

The pandemic has had a drastic effect on healthcare workers. Aman Grewal is the president of the British Columbia Nursing Union. She’s calling for action. 

“More than three-quarters of nurses have told us their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, and over half have stated their physical health has deteriorated as well,” Grewal said in a press release.

“Our government must prioritize the well-being of our nurses. The future of our provincial health care system depends on it.”

In April, the provincial government announced that they’re bringing in new systems to make it easier for internationally educated nurses to start working in the province. They also added 602 new nursing seats to public post-secondary institutions in February.

Both of these measures are important. But they’ll also take years before we see any effects.

In the meantime, folks on NorthIsle will have to deal with a crumbling healthcare system.

To directly impact the healthcare in your area, you can support the BCNU Help BC Nurses Movement. This campaign encourages folks to email their local MLAs to demand support for healthcare workers and our communities.