Chetwynd hospital diversions not solely due to staffing shortages: Northern Health

CHETWYND, B.C. – Chetwynd General Hospital has had several diversions over the past few months, which is not solely due to staff shortages, according to a Northern Health spokesperson.

The health authority recently announced a temporary suspension of emergency room services on Wednesday from 9 p.m. until June 16th at 7 a.m., but it was later cancelled.

Eryn Collins says many factors have prompted the need for some facilities across the country to close their emergency departments at times.

“There can be other reasons, including if the number of patients that are in care at a given time can’t be managed, so that’s a capacity issue,” Collins explained.

She adds there are significant recruitment and retention challenges, not just in the northeast but across the country.

In response, Northern Health is looking for ways to make the north more attractive to live and work, said Collins.

“We have support from the ministry of health in making that happen through incentives and other recruitment supports, and not only in Chetwynd, the northeast will benefit from that,” she explained.

“We are continuing to work to recruit to nursing and to other positions, including temporary nursing coverage through agency staff.”

Collins mentions some recent successes they’ve had in initiatives that help with recruitment and retention.

Last year, the health authority recently recruited a full-time registered nurse through the Rural and Retention Nursing Initiative.

“We’ve had an employed student nurse who has started work just this month in Chetwynd,” she explained.

“We had some recruitment successes in primary care nursing as well. So the Chetwynd Primary Care Clinic has been fully staffed for nurses since February.”

She adds that diagnostic services at the hospital are also fully staffed, thanks to hiring a full-time medical lab assistant earlier this year.

Although they’ve had these successes, she admits that there are times when they need to divert emergency department services.

“We really do appreciate the understanding and the patience of the community when those services are temporarily distributed, she explained.

“But, we do have protocols in place to make sure that people who are requiring emergency care or a higher level of care get treatment through being transferred to the appropriate facility.”

Another point she wanted to add was to make sure that patients know their options when less urgent care is needed.

“Of course, visiting their primary care provider or their family physician’s office, provided that they have one, but the Northern Health Virtual Primary and Community Care Clinic is also available to Northern BC residents,” she explained.

This service operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. PST and includes weekends and statutory holidays. More information about this service can be found on Northern Health’s website.

According to the website, the virtual clinic is for patients in the Northern Health region who do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner or need care on evenings or weekends when the centres are closed.

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