Emergency departments on northern Vancouver Island to open set hours for now

Health minister Adrian Dix announces supports for Northern Vancouver Island in a press conference Friday. Legislative bureau chief Keith Baldrey has more.

The B.C. government said Friday that emergency department services will be available in northern Vancouver Island during set hours going forward so patients and families know when and where to go for help.

Emergency department services will be available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Port Hardy, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Cormorant Island, and 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Port McNeill.

This announcement comes after months of unexpected closures at the emergency departments due to staff shortages.

“We are committed to improving access to health care with significant investments across northern Vancouver Island,” Adrian Dix, minister of health, said Friday in a release. “Staffing shortages and challenges in the North Island have created uncertainty. The new efforts launching today will bring certainty for emergency care services for people living in Port Hardy, Cormorant Island, and Port McNeill communities and surrounding region.”

Dix said enhancing staff recruitment and retention incentives for eligible staff, with travel wage increases, upgraded accommodations for travelling staff and more protection service officers to improve safety and site support, will all help to increase staff retention.

Island Health will establish daily shuttle services between Port Hardy and Port McNeill Hospitals, as well as daily shuttles to Campbell River and the Comox Valley for patients and staff.

Island Health said it will also add new 24/7 mental health and substance use services such as additional sobering and assessment centre beds to increase access to supportive care and reduce emergency department admissions.

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

“In response, 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.”

Dix said these changes are just a first but significant step to improving health-care services in the region.

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