PRINCE GEORGE (January 27, 2023) – Residents of Mackenzie are all too familiar with the effects staffing shortages have had on access to emergency medical services. Now in its second year of repeated temporary closures to its emergency room, Mackenzie and District Hospital and Health Centre — a crucial lifeline for many northern and rural British Columbians — continues to struggle to keep its doors open.
“The constant emergency room closures at the Mackenzie Hospital have gone on for far too long as patient lives continue to be put at risk. It’s time for David Eby’s NDP to step up, show some leadership and find a permanent solution to these staffing issues,” said Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris. “This facility is two hours away from Prince George, and the next closest emergency room is in Chetwynd, about 175 kilometres away. Short-term diversions and closures pose major threats to the safety of residents and impose further stress on the under-resourced 911 system.”
The rural area of Mackenzie has been hit hard by health care staffing shortages. In 2022, Mackenzie Hospital lost more than 300 hours of service due to closures. Morris says it is not good enough for patients and their families to have to drive hours to reach the nearest hospital, which may also be seeing service reductions of its own. ER diversions have also forced those facing emergencies to call an already-strained Mackenzie ambulance station, which often has to revert to sending out police and fire teams to emergency calls they are not trained to handle. Recently, the NDP announced millions in funding to help stabilize hospitals in northern Vancouver Island, but the NDP has yet to make the same investments in the rest of rural B.C.
“It is unacceptable how often residents must face these closures which can range from a couple of hours to multiple days at a time. It is simply unrealistic for people in this region to either wait for an ambulance, which is so hard to get as it is, or face extensive travel to another facility,” added Morris. “Communities in every corner of the province deserve access to emergency health care, including rural and northern B.C. I am urging David Eby and NDP to take immediate action and fulfill their promise to ‘hit the ground running’ on the major issue of emergency health services. Lives are at stake.”