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Province says 'significant efforts' underway to end ER closures on northern Vancouver Island


The British Columbia government says "significant efforts" are underway to improve access to health care on northern Vancouver Island, where prolonged emergency room closures have become routine since the summer.

"Staffing shortages and challenges on the North Island have created uncertainty," Health Minister Adrian Dix said Friday, announcing efforts to restore regular operating hours to emergency departments in Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Cormorant Island.

The ministry says emergency services are now available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Port Hardy Hospital, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cormorant Island Health Centre.

The Port McNeill Hospital is once again operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the province, which noted that regular, full-time hours will be restored across the region "as soon as possible."

"We have heard the community loud and clear. People need to know when services are available and when they are not," said Island Health president and CEO Kathy MacNeil in a statement Friday.

"To prevent unexpected closures, Island Health is temporarily suspending overnight emergency department services in Port Hardy and on Cormorant Island while our new measures come into place," she added.

"We will resume regular hours as soon as possible, and work to immediately accelerate efforts to expand services and strengthen staffing throughout the region."


The Vancouver Island health authority is launching a daily shuttle service between the Port Hardy and Port McNeill hospitals, as well as daily shuttles to Campbell River and the Comox Valley for patients and staff, according to the province.

"I have heard from many people in my constituency about the critical need for more health-care access in Port Hardy and surrounding areas," said North Island MLA Michele Babchuk.

"Our government is taking a multi-pronged approach to build out capacity, strengthen the workforce, and upgrade the facilities in the region. This is important news for our communities. The actions announced today not only address our immediate challenges, but also go further and will pave the way to modernizing and improving health care for North Island residents for years to come."

Island Health says it will spend $30 million over the coming months to expand diagnostic services and upgrade the Port Hardy and Port McNeill hospitals, as well as expanding substance-use, mental health and at-home health services in the region.

"These changes are a first and significant step to ensure reliable access to care, while the Ministry of Health works with Island Health on the many other actions underway to address health-care staffing challenges in the region," Dix said. Top Stories

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