Vancouver Island hospital suddenly shuts down ER due to staff shortage

The Town of Port McNeill, B.C. is seen in this photo from the town's website.

The emergency department at Port McNeill Hospital unexpectedly shut down on Friday evening due to a staffing shortage.

Around 5:30 p.m., Island Health said that the ER at the hospital would be closed from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday because of an "unanticipated" shortage of nurses.

During this time, the hospital will also not be accepting new patients.

Island Health says anyone in the community that has a medical emergency should call 911 or head to Port Hardy Hospital if possible.

If you're unsure if you're having a medical event that requires an emergency visit to the hospital, Island Health says you can contact HealthLinkBC for free at 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.

Island Health says it wasn't aware of the nursing shortage at the North Island hospital until Friday afternoon.

"Despite immediate effort from local leadership to find alternate nursing coverage, nursing coverage has not been secured," said the health authority in a statement Friday.

"Island Health acknowledges this is not an ideal situation for the community and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience experienced by this temporary service reduction."

This is the third time that Port McNeill Hospital has faced emergency department closures in as many months.

Earlier in May and in March, the hospital warned of weekend ER closures due to staff shortages.