Four Doctors Down, Three To Go?

Leaked documents show the gravity of NorthIsle's doctor shortage.

Only three doctors left for all of Port Hardy.

The leaked transcript is out.

Port Hardy’s doctor shortage is endangering both patients and medical staff.

This is the crux of what was said in an Aug 17th meeting between a number of the towns doctors and Island Health, a transcript of which was leaked to Canada’s National Observer.

Not that we really needed a leaked summary to tell us that.

As of September, there will be only three doctors serving all of Port Hardy’s 4,000 residents – as well as people in the surrounding areas.

The transcript stated there should be seven full-time doctors in the community, not three.

As of this month, only two physicians will be working at the community clinic, while the third will shift over to cover acute or emergency care.

Local doctors were already feeling intense pressure last month.

Local doctors were often “on call” for emergencies every three days – sometimes daily.

There were 19 emergency shifts that local doctors had to be covered with minimal notice in August, the transcript said.

And doctors have not been the only ones getting short or no notice for emergencies.

The random last minute ER closures that have been occuring in the past year across NorthIsle were also brought up in the meeting.

The doctors pointed out that properly coordinated scheduled closures every month were needed to help keep patients in real emergencies from showing up and finding closed doors.

“Unplanned (emergency department) closures are unsafe for patients, and the physicians would recommend having a frank conversation with the public and communicating any planned closures,” the document stated.

This is obviously not a long term solution – but it would be a temporary bandaid.

Letting everyone know of how bad staffing levels are is better than leaving Islanders constantly guessing whether or not we can get medical help. At least that would let us respond collectively to the problems we’re all facing.

Despite the mounting issues and no real quick fix solutions, those at the meeting seemed focused on creating real, possibly systemic change around health care for NorthIsle.

However, systemic change could prove fruitless when what’s really needed is more staff.

One option discussed was consolidating available resources. “The discussion of one hospital for the region is one option … but the problem is complex,” it summary noted.

Kinda sounds like the same issues just with more travel time.

Island Health previously told Canada’s National Observer that it is not considering the closure or consolidation of any of the emergency rooms serving North Island.

Lets just hope one outcome of the meeting’s discussions helps get the numbers of doctors and nurses up, not down.