UPDATE – VIHA announced Sunday night they had filled the nurse shifts so there was no diversion on Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1.
Due to nurse shortages, the Port McNeill hospital will be sending all emergency room patients to the Port Hardy hospital this Halloween weekend on Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
“It’s called diversion,” said a North Island healthcare worker who requested to remain anonymous. “It means anyone who goes into the hospital via ambulance will be diverted to Port Hardy automatically, and anyone who walks into the McNeill hospital, if they feel they need any more investigation than they can handle, they will also be redirected to the Port Hardy hospital.”
The worker noted the issue of nurse shortages is a serious one for the North Island.
“We’ve been having an ongoing issue with hiring and keeping nurses here, and for years now we’ve had agency nurses who come in temporarily, but they’re very expensive, they have to be put up in housing and given a car rental, and they fill in for a few weeks but they don’t know the community.”
The worker added the nurse shortage issue was actually caused by two agency nurses cancelling at the last minute, and then pointed out that burnout is the real factor as to why nurse retention is so low in the North Island.
“They [nurses] are understaffed, over busy, they don’t get their breaks, don’t get to eat their lunches, don’t get to go to the bathroom, they get tired, and then they either quit or leave or go part time and the problem just gets worse and worse.”
Port Hardy will have two registered nurses working this weekend, mainly thanks to the hospital using “pretty extreme circumstances to get the shifts covered,” which the worker noted was thanks to “nurses working overtime and picking up shifts they shouldn’t have to in order to get coverage.”
Another issue is that nurses, unlike doctors, don’t get paid more money to come to rural areas than they do urban settings.
“To prevent this kind of thing from happening, Island Health needs to send more nurses to the North Island which will lead to more job satisfaction, better patient safety, and better healthcare resources… We’re barely functioning with the staff we have right now,” added the worker.
Above all else, the worker requested for North Island residents to understand that “our resources are limited this weekend, so please try and keep the emergency room for emergencies, if you can wait for the clinic then please wait, because it will give the nurses more time to take care of those who need it this weekend.”