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BC Interior hospital closure: Patients in need of emergency care told to drive 130 km

Yet another hospital in the BC Interior has been forced to close down its emergency department due to a shortage of staff.

This time it’s Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater.

According to Interior Health, there weren’t enough nurses available to operate the department between Monday at 6 pm and Tuesday at 7 am.

Interior Health advised residents who rely on the hospital to take the 127-kilometre trip to Kamloops if they require urgent care.

Alternatively, they could head 131 kilometres west to 100 Mile House.

All other services have been maintained as normal in Clearwater, Interior Health added.

Emergency department closures have become a common occurrence in the Interior.

Over the weekend, several hospitals, including in Lillooet and Merritt, were closed due to a shortage of staff.

Last week, the hospital in Oliver was forced to shut its emergency department temporarily due to a shortage of doctors.

The mayor of Merritt told CBC on Monday he will be billing the province for costs incurred by the municipality during temporary hospital closures.

Shadow Minister for Health Shirley Bond, meanwhile, said over the weekend that Premier David Eby must “acknowledge the crisis in healthcare.”

Referencing the Merritt closure, she wrote on X: “Imagine requiring emergency care and being told you need to find it 85 kms away . . .during extreme heat no less!”

The BC NDP government has pledged tens of millions of dollars through various schemes to address the closures, including by seeking out foreign medical staff to work in BC.

Last month, Kelowna GP Dr. Joshua Nordine told KelownaNow that it would help the health system “tremendously” if medical staff barred from working due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate were rehired.

BC is the only jurisdiction in Canada to maintain the ban on health workers who are not vaccinated against the virus.

The province has persisted in claiming the ban is necessary to “protect vulnerable populations.”

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