Most of the North Island region – not just Port Hardy – faces shortages of doctors and nurses as well as significant gaps in medical imaging and laboratory services, a leaked document broadcasts by the National Observer of Canada.

Most of the North Island region – not just Port Hardy – faces shortages of doctors and nurses as well as significant gaps in medical imaging and laboratory services, a leaked document broadcasts by the National Observer of Canada.

The area has been in an “evolving state of crisis” since the start of the pandemic, says an Aug. 5 briefing note from the North Island Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Family Medicine. This is the second document disclosed to Canada’s National Observer on the matter.

The region is expected to continue to bleed doctors, according to the document detailing medical staffing levels and vacancies expected for a meeting with Island Health.

Alert Bay, a ferry-dependent community of 1,200, is expected to have no doctors in its emergency department and medical clinic by early December, the document said.

The three physician positions at the Cormorant Island Health Center are expected to be vacant by December 2.

In April, the vacancy rate for registered nurses (RNs) — responsible for basic emergency care at the facility — was 67%. And the vacancy rate for licensed practical nurses (LPNs), who typically provide routine patient care and assist RNs and physicians, is 50%.

Laboratory and x-ray services are only provided on varying days during the week and there is no after-hours medical imaging, the document adds. Patient transport is also limited by BC Ferries sailing schedules and there is no dedicated water taxi for medical issues.

As previously reported by Canada’s National Observer, in September Port Hardy, which is expected to have the equivalent of seven full-time doctors, will have only three doctors in the emergency department and medical clinic at the hospital in the city.

But the anticipated shortage of doctors is compounded by high nursing vacancy rates at Port Hardy Hospital, according to the leaked document.

There is a 46% vacancy rate for registered nurses in April and an 80% vacancy rate for LPNs at the hospital which serves approximately 4,000 area residents.

Staffing of lab and x-ray technicians is also at a critical level, with lab tests and x-rays only provided on call at night at hospitals in Port Hardy and Port McNeill.

The nearest center for advanced medical imaging, such as CT scans, is 240 kilometers away, or a 2.5 hour drive to Campbell River, adding to the existing pressure on ambulance transportation, according to the document.

The continued recruitment of physicians and other care providers to the region remains a key priority, said a joint written statement to Canada’s National Observer from Island Health and the Rural and Remote Division of Family Medicine (RRDFP). ).

Two new doctors are now working in Port McNeill at the newly opened medical clinic owned and operated by Island Health, and a new doctor is committed to starting practice in Port Hardy in November, the statement said.

A new task force that includes Port Hardy physicians and representatives from Island Health, RRDFP and Doctors of BC aims to create strategies to help health care providers deliver quality patient care.

The group’s immediate goal is to ensure reliable and predictable emergency care services in the region and support access to primary care services, the joint statement from Island Health said.

“Substantial efforts have also been made to maintain services and provide high quality, culturally safe patient care during this challenging time,” the email added.

“But we know that additional collaborative and innovative approaches that support doctors and healthcare providers who work in the region… are needed.”

Port McNeill, which is expected to have five physicians to serve approximately 3,000 residents and surrounding remote communities, now has one physician vacancy on hold, thresholds indicated in the leaked document.

Nursing vacancies appear less severe, with a hospital RN vacancy rate of 38% in April, the document said.

But the combined shortages of doctors and nurses are leading to an increase in the number of temporary emergency room closures and diversions of ambulances from one emergency room to another on a daily basis, ultimately putting the care of patients at risk, the document adds.

The healthcare challenges in the region are not unique to the North Island, but reflect problems in the province and across Canada, according to the joint statement from Island Health.

A collaborative effort, which will include the First Nations Health Authority, Indigenous communities and municipal leaders, will follow to create a sustainable health care system to meet the needs of patients and medical staff, he said. .

No representative from Island Health or the Rural and Remote Division of Family Medicine was available for interviews despite requests from Canada’s National Observer.

Health Minister Adrian Dix’s office also did not respond to questions or requests for comment or interviews from the NOC.

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