An emtpy hospital hallway.

Photo Credit: Canva

Don’t Get Sick on the NorthIsle

Stock up on Vitamin C. You're gonna need it

It’ll take a lot longer to find care if these hospitals can’t stay open

There are more hospital closures in the cards for the NorthIsle.

Island Health has just sent out its most desperate call for nurses yet. Three towns are wildly short-staffed for the next 10 days.

Staff is needed to cover shifts in Port Hardy, Port McNeil, and Alert Bay.

They aren’t even pretending to have things under control at this point. They say point blank, “[w]e have exhausted all current options.”

During other closures this year, patients have been routed to the closest place with a treatment centre.

This won’t change. But if Island Health can’t find more staff for at least one of these hospitals, instead of a half-hour trip, you could be travelling hours to get healthcare.

Dr. Anthony Fong is an emergency doctor from Vancouver. “[With] the fact that there’s no help available nearby, what can you do in case of emergency?” he told Capital Daily. “You have to drive an hour away and hope that you don’t get worse on the way.”

The doctor found out firsthand just how short-staffed the Port Hardy hospital really is.

He responded to an urgent call for emergency doctors. After travelling to the area to work, he thought he’d have a very busy couple of nights.

But when he got there, the hospital’s emergency room was still closed.

The reason? There weren’t enough nurses to stay open.

“I was pretty surprised and shocked,” said Dr. Fong “I basically was talking to the staff there and receiving my orientation, and the message I got was that, ‘Well, it sounds like you won’t have much to do tonight because we’re closing at 7 p.m.’”

So instead of providing real care to people who needed it, he was paid to watch over the already stable, sleeping, previously admitted patients.

“There were no care issues that needed tending to overnight,” he said about his Tuesday night shift.

While the nursing shortage is showing itself heavily on the NorthIsle, the crisis is occurring nationwide.

Dr. Fong has worked as a locum physician in emergency departments across Canada. That means he takes over when the regular doctors can’t be there. But he’s never shown up for a shift to find the hospital closed.

That was a first.

But he says the underlying nursing shortage is happening everywhere—albeit at different levels.

“The general theme that I’m seeing with nurses in situations all across the province and all across Canada is that, in general, they’re being asked to do more with less,” he said.

Island Health has “addressed” the issue many times, and they’ve been working to solve it. But despite their efforts, nothing much has changed. Because we need more nurses.

“Despite the success in securing physician coverage and many other professional and support staff, it is expected the ongoing shortage of emergency trained nurses will persist, impacting service interruptions,” they said in another statement.

The situation is only becoming more dire. And it’s causing stress for both patients and workers.

“This is a new thing that’s happening in Canada,” Dr. Fong said. “It’s unprecedented. I’ve never seen this before in the 15 years I’ve worked in healthcare in Canada.”

Long story short, we recommend taking all your vitamins and driving really slowly. No one wants to be sick or hurt on the NorthIsle right now.