Despite a recent claim by a news outlet stating the Emergency Room at West Coast General Hospital (WCGH) may see closures this summer, Island Health says no shutdown is planned for the emergency department.
According to a CBC article from July 5, an anonymous source who claimed to work in the Port Alberni emergency department at WCGH told the media outlet that due to ongoing staff shortages, the Emergency Room could be closed through much of August and September for eight-hour periods each day.
“There are no planned closures or diversions for the emergency department at West Coast General Hospital,” Island Health said in a statement. “In general, diversion or temporary closure is a last resort and would only occur after every possible mitigation strategy is explored and exhausted. In all cases, it is a step taken to ensure the delivery of safe patient care.”
Like all regions across Canada, Island Health is extremely challenged by the health workforce shortage.
“Despite this, clinical leadership continues to work diligently to create and use mitigation strategies to balance staffing across units and sites to ensure the continued provision of safe patient care,” said Island Health. “Island Health is actively working to ensure the availability of emergency services in the Alberni Valley region and beyond. We want to reassure the public that our hospitals and emergency departments are ready to take care of anyone who shows up in need of care.”
In 2021/2022 fiscal year, the West Coast General Hospital emergency department averaged 52.8 visits per day.
Mariah Charleson, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council vice-president, is a member of the First Nations Health Council and said she hasn’t heard any news of the Emergency Room at WCGH closing.
“Of course, the emergency department is very important to many Nuu-chah-nulth, particularly some of our more vulnerable population, as they are often without a family physician, therefore the emergency department is the only option for treatment,” Charleson said.
Construction is currently underway to expand the emergency department at WCGH to support improvements to patient care and privacy for people in the region.
“West Coast General Hospital is an important part of the community for residents in the area, including Port Alberni, Tofino, Ucluelet, Bamfield, Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations, Uchucklesaht Tribe, Huu-ay-aht and Ditidaht First Nations, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government, Toquaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht and Hesquiaht First Nations,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health in a press release last year. “The work underway will help relieve the congestion of this very busy hospital that sees more than 25,000 patient visits to the emergency department each year.”
The redevelopment will include a 244-square-metre expansion. Improvements will feature three new patient exam beds, extra space for patients awaiting tests and results, improvements to the triage and admitting area, and a dedicated entrance for ambulances.