Nurse recruitment enables B.C. community health centre to resume 24-7 emergency care

A nurse holds a tablet in this stock image from Shutterstock.

A health centre in a small B.C. community that had to cut back its hours because of staffing issues will resume 24-hour emergency care, the local health authority announced.

Interior Health president Susan Brown said two more registered nurses were recruited to allow the Slocan Community Health Centre to resume normal operations in its emergency department.

"I would like to thank the community for its support while we managed Omicron-driven staffing challenges earlier this year and reduced emergency services to maintain safe patient care," Brown said in a statement issued Monday.

Interior Health announced in January the centre's emergency department would only operate 12 hours per day – from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. – due to a staffing shortage. 

Health care across B.C. has been impacted by extra workloads and staff shortages through the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing many small-town health centres to reduce hours or temporarily close. As well, some health-care workers in B.C. are no longer working due to a vaccine mandate, though the mandate doesn't apply to all health-care staff and it's unclear if the restrictions impacted recent closures in Interior Health. 

Less than two weeks ago, unforeseen limited staffing ability led to an overnight closure at the Clearwater emergency department. Just days before that, Merritt and area residents were notified that the Nicola Valley Hospital's emergency department had to close overnight due to staffing issues.

Nurses have previously told CTV News they now work short-staffed nearly all the time.

"Nurses are exhausted. They're burnt out. They need better mental health supports," B.C. Nurses' Union president Adriane Gear said earlier this year. "We're not heroes. Nurses are humans." 

Health officials with the province have repeatedly said they're working to increase recruitment in the health-care sector and the nursing school at the University of British Columbia said it's seen applications rise during the pandemic.

New Denver Mayor Leonard Casey said he's pleased around-the-clock service is resuming in his community.

"Having access to 24-7 care provides our community with the ability to seek prompt medical attention regardless of challenges posed by geographical location and limited pre-hospital services," he said in a statement.