A view of the exterior of the emergency department at the Arrow Lakes Hospital. (File photo)

Sick staff cause Nakusp’s hospital to close Saturday night

Interior Health says it’s actively recruiting for new casual staff

Anyone needing emergency medical care last weekend in Nakusp was in for an unwelcome surprise when they went to the local emergency room.

Interior Health closed the Arrow Lakes Hospital’s emergency department overnight Saturday, until Sunday morning.

It said the closure was “due to unexpected and temporary limited staffing availability.”

Patients requiring acute care services were transferred to the most appropriate and closest acute care facility for about 14 hours, from noon Saturday until 7 a.m. Sunday, IH said.

Those facilities were identified in a posted notification as being in Vernon, Revelstoke, Trail and Nelson.

“Unfortunately we had two separate ‘short notice’ calls from staff, and we weren’t able to find additional staffing for those short-notice calls, and unfortunately we had to close,” said Suzanne Lee, the interim health services administrator for communities in the Kootenay/Boundary. “We were able to re-do our scheduling, and re-open our doors at 7 a.m.”

Lee says any changes to emergency departments is concerning, and they regret what happened. She says Interior Health is working to build up its backfill pool in Nakusp.

“It is unusual to have these types of impactful interruptions to services,” she said. “All of our permanent positions are filled, and we’re actively recruiting for casuals,” she says. “We’re working on that, absolutely.”

Some locals raised concerns that Interior Health’s notice didn’t direct patients to the New Denver health centre, just 50 kilometers away.

“Imagine acting on that post and heading to the Galena Bay ferry after midnight [or] driving the Monashee on a treacherous rainy night,” wrote New Denver’s Isy Schumann to Arrow Lakes News. “Interior Health’s carelessness in announcing alternative emergency departments has the potential to cause a fatality.”

Lee says the omission of the New Denver facility was a mistake that was corrected.

“We did update the posting on the door, but on the initial posting it was an oversight, and we apologize for that,” she said. “In previous releases we have made sure we include that.”

Lee said she had no reports of any emergency cases having to be transferred over to other hospitals on Saturday night.

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