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UPDATE: Cariboo Memorial Hospital not unique in staffing challenges: Interior Health

CMH working to maintain staffing of all departments
An ambulance parked outside of the emergency room after dropping off a patient at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake on Nov. 22, 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune) An ambulance parked outside of the emergency room after dropping off a patient at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Responding to an inquiry about staffing levels at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital, Interior Health said Williams Lake is not alone in staffing challenges and their priority is to maintain full services.

“Cariboo Memorial Hospital is experiencing the same shortage of health-care workers and physicians that is occurring in health-care across Canada,” said Derek Keller, Interior Health’s clinical operations director, Williams Lake, noting shortages mean leadership have to plan weeks and months ahead to be able to ensure coverage can occur.

Keller stated they are able to cover nursing shifts, with occasional support from agencies. He reported the hospital currently has three full-time emergency-department-trained physicians and is trying to recruit three more vacant positions.

Locum physicians are also helping to cover emergency department shifts and they are looking for more locums.

”We are committed to ensuring the people of the Williams Lake area can rely on their hospital for their medical needs, including emergency care,” said Keller, noting their priority is to maintain full services for the area.

Interior Health also said they have been working closely with emergency department physicians to strategize how to best support the Williams Lake emergency department in both the short and longer term.

They try to provide additional supports for locum physicians coming to help cover shifts and collaborating with local physicians to create a sustainable plan.

Interior Health stated they work closely with provincial partners to support “equity in workforce plans that are aligned to patient needs. This includes partnership with the local primary care networks to increase access to community family physician services.”

Just this week, IH announced another overnight closure of the Nicola Valley Hospital emergency department in Merritt due to a physician vacancy Feb. 8. Residents in that area in need of emergency services must travel to Kamloops.

Last year, Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater was forced to close its emergency department almost 60 times between April and September, due to emergency department RN staffing vacancies.

In that case, solutions were found to keep the hospital open through partnerships with Interior Health, the District of Clearwater, individual health administrators, Clearwater mayor and council, community residents, hospital nursing and non-nursing staff, physicians, the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice and the B.C. Nurses Union.

Read more: Two-year nursing program to start this fall in Prince George

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

After moving back to Williams Lake, where I was born and graduated from school, I joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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