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Doctor shortage forces Grand Forks hospital to temporarily close ER

Physician wasn’t available from midnight to 8 a.m. for Aug. 19
Boundary District Hospital’s emergency room closed its doors on Saturday, Aug. 19, from midnight to 8 a.m. because there was no physician available. File photo

Boundary District Hospital’s emergency room shut its doors on Aug. 19 and may have to close again in the coming days over staffing shortages, according to Grand Forks’ mayor and a source who works at the hospital.

A news release from Interior Health stated the ER was closed due to “unexpected limited physician availability.”

People were advised to seek care at either Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson or South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver.

In an email on Wednesday, a communications representative with Interior Health stated all shifts at the hospital are covered and no anticipated closures.

The hospital’s emergency room was closed from midnight to 8 a.m. because there was no physician available to cover that shift, stated a source who works in the hospital. The Grand Forks Gazette has agreed to grant the person anonymity.

“There was zero acute care at services. It was literally if someone was dying and needed emergency care, there was no help between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m.,” the source said.

This is the first time in the history of the hospital the ER was closed, the source added.

People working at the hospital and other health-care facilities are passionate about helping their patients, the source said. However, the current situation is creating a hostile environment for staff and physicians who feel they have no choice but to either resign or transfer to other locations.

“The only reason I’m still here is because I do care, but that could change,” they said.

The source added they appreciate the hard work Mayor Everett Baker has been doing to help hospital staff in trying to get the Ministry of Health to make better policy decisions.

Baker expressed his disappointment over the closure in a statement, adding over the past year he’s been working with Interior Health to try to avoid closing the ER.

“We have been able to avoid any ER closures. Unfortunately, we were unable to secure a doctor to cover that evening,” Baker stated. “I will continue to work diligently with Interior Health to minimize ER closures and I will continue to be an advocate for positive health care in our community.

Anyone who believes they need life-saving emergency care for symptoms such as chest pains, difficulty breathing or severe bleeding should call 911 for transport to the nearest available facility that can care for them, the Interior Health release stated.

Anyone who is not sure if their symptoms require hospital care can call HealthLink BC at 811, or visit for non-emergency health information from nurses, dieticians and pharmacists 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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