Emergency room gets temporary closures

Staff shortage causes decreased coverage of department

The Stuart Lake Hospital’s emergency department will be closed eight days over the next month. The hospital’s emergency department will not have adequate emergency staff.

Michele Taylor

Caledonia Courier


A locum was secured for the Stuart Lake Hospital emergency department. The emergency department will now see only one day for an expected closure of emergency department services from 8 a.m., May 23, to 8 a.m., on May 24.

The emergency room will have limited coverage for three days in May: May 12, 14 and 19, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Patients with non-life threatening of non-limb saving needs can visit the Acute Care Clinic located at 275 Stuart Drive East, during normal business hours 9-4 p.m.


A lack of staff has caused a diversion of the emergency department at the Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James. The department will see eight days over the next month where the hospital’s emergency department will not have adequate emergency staff to attend emergency situations.

Coverage for a locum that was already off due to person reasons was affected when the locum that was coming to the hospital to cover the leave had to cancel their coverage due to personal reason as well.

Emergency only department affected

Jonathon Dyck, Public Affairs and Media Relations Communications for Northern Health, said the emergency department is the only part of the hospital that will be affected by the shortage. The Stuart Lake Hospital’s other departments will not see any closures, he said the rest of the hospital will be open for patients.

“There is eight days that the emergency department will be closed in May due to these unexpected circumstances,” he said.

The hospital emergency room will be closed May 7, 12, 14, 26 and May 28, each day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and from 7 a.m. on May 23 to 7 a.m. on May 25.

Dyck said Northern Health appreciates the community’s support during the shortage while it attempts to find coverage for the department.

“We did have coverage up until this point,” he said. “Unfortunately there was another personal leave from the covering locum.”

Transport for emergencies during the closure dates will be to the next open emergency department in Vanderhoof or Prince George.

April Hughes, health services administrator Omineca Region, says if there was a concern of closures in Vanderhoof the public would be notified.

“But when there’s a closure in Fort St. James it definitely impacts Vanderhoof. When the emergency department in Fort St. James does close, ambulance drivers and patients driving their own vehicles will be diverted from Fort St. James to Vanderhoof [it being the next closest hospital],” she said. “There have been scattered emergency-room closures in Fort St. James before, some lasting over an eight-to-ten month period, and we certainly saw an increase in traffic.”

Anyone requiring emergency attention can call 9-1-1 for transport to one of these open locations Dyck said, adding if patients aren’t sure if their condition would warrant an emergency room visit or if they require health advice, patients are encouraged to call Health Link BC at 8-1-1.

Patients who are transferred due to an emergency that do not require follow up in their originating community’s hospital are advised that transport back to their home community is the patient’s responsibility. Dyck said there is a bus service available on Wednesday’s to Fort St. James that can be utilized.

“Sometimes patients will be transferred back by BC Ambulance Service depending if they’re coming back to the hospital,” he said. “Standard practice for all communities across BC, is that patients are required to find their own way back to their home communities.”

– with files from Rebecca Watson


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