Emergency department in B.C. Interior temporarily closes due to staff shortage

A hospital bed is seen in this undated image. (Shutterstock)

Another B.C. emergency department was forced to temporarily close due to a staffing shortage.

Interior Health posted a notice Sunday saying the Ashcroft Hospital and Community Health Care Centre had to close early on the weekend.

The emergency department normally operates only on the weekends from Fridays at 6 p.m. to Mondays at 8 a.m., but because of "limited staffing availability," the department closed at midnight Sunday. It's expected to reopen for its regular hours on Friday.

"Interior Health regrets this temporary change to normal operations," Interior Health said in a statement.

Anyone who required emergency assistance was advised to call 911 or visit Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, which is about a one-hour drive from the Ashcroft hospital, or go to the Nicola Valley Hospital, which is about a 75-minute drive away.

The Nicola Valley Hospital, in Merritt, faced its own staffing shortages last week. On Tuesday, Interior Health said the hospital's emergency department had to close for more than 12 hours "due to an unforeseen limited physician availability." 

The closures came as health-care facilities across the province are dealing with severe staffing shortages due to the spread of Omicron. Some health-care workers in B.C. are also no longer working due to a vaccine mandate, though it's unclear if the mandate impacted the recent closures.

Nurses have previously told CTV News they now work short-staffed nearly all the time, saying some of their biggest concerns are of their ability to care for patients at the standard to which they’ve been trained.

"You can imagine working in constant fear that somebody is going to die because you cannot get there to give them the care that they require," said Paula Leweke, a veteran nurse and nurse educator, earlier this month.

Ashcroft's hospital has faced ongoing closures over the past several months. Since October, there have been at least four temporary closures of the weekend emergency department. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Penny Daflos