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Unforeseen limited staffing forces temporary closure of emergency department in B.C. s Interior

Fraser Health said in a statement the Clearwater emergency department at Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital had to close for more than 30 hours "due to an unforeseen limited staffing availability." The department was closed from 12 p.m. on Saturday until 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Anyone who required emergency assistance was advised to call 911 or visit Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, which is about a 90-minute drive from the Clearwater hospital.

It s not the only emergency department that changed its hours over the past few days. The Ashcroft Hospital and Community Health Care Centre was open for reduced hours over the weekend, though Interior Health didn t give a reason why in its announcement.

By Monday, both emergency departments were back to regular hours of operation.

Last month, another emergency department in Interior Health was forced to close temporarily – for an unknown length of time – due to a staffing shortage.

Elkford Health Centre s emergency department

And it s not just Interior Health dealing with staffing issues. Late last week, doctors in Northern Health warned residents to be extra cautious and avoid injury as hospitals in the region are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. 

"Our hospital is overwhelmed and our staffing is compromised – I don t think that everyone in our community understands how easily the staffing of a small rural hospital can be compromised," said Dr. Rebecca Janssen, a hospitalist and chief of staff at Vanderhoof s St. John Hospital, last week.

"We are effectively begging people to be vaccinated and I hope that by expressing what dire straits we re in it does penetrate and people start taking this seriously, because I m very worried for the community."

Last month, staffing shortages and pressure on local health-care systems meant B.C. turned down Alberta s call for workers to help with its local COVID-19 crisis.

"Given the current demands on B.C. s health-care system, we will not be able to assist with taking patients at this time," B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix . 

With files from CTV News Vancouver s Penny Daflos 

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