British Columbia

Fort St. James, B.C. emergency room closing for 8 days after doctor cancels shifts

Many rural communities in B.C. struggle to staff medical resources with doctors and support staff

Many rural communities in B.C. struggle to staff medical resources with doctors and support staff

Health PEI will begin offering some services as part of the Women's Wellness Program at a temporary location in the Prince County Hospital later this month. (CBC)

If there is a medical emergency in Fort St. James, B.C., people will have to drive 77 kilometres — over an hour's drive — to Vanderhoof to get to the emergency room after the local emergency room physician cancelled shifts for "urgent personal reasons," closing it for eight days in May.

That distance worries child-care worker Virginia Araya.

"Sometimes if a child gets hurt or playing outside — they get a cut or something, and if it's any emergency it's a long way to go," she said.

The shifts were supposed to be covered by a temporary locum physician while the community's permanent physician is on leave.

A news release from Northern Health says the health authority is trying to find a fill-in replacement to avert some of the closures.

Fort St. James isn't the only B.C. community facing a doctor shortage.

The incoming president of Doctors of B.C. said emergency room closures are unusual, but the shortage in Fort St. James is part of a bigger problem.

"Fort St. James is symptomatic of a number of the other areas in rural British Columbia — partly because of physician resources, partly because of the lack of allied healthcare professionals to support those services, so it's a real challenge for us across B.C.," said Dr. Alan Ruddiman.

The emergency room at the Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James will be closed for the following days and times.

  • May 7 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT
  • May 12 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT
  • May 14 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT
  • May 23 from 7 a.m. to May 25, 7 a.m. PT
  • May 26 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT
  • May 28 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT

With files from Audrey McKinnon.

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