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MP Blaney pushes government to find solutions to North Island emergency room closures

It’s no secret that emergency rooms in the North Island have been dealing with rotating closures
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney speaks in the House of Commons on Nov. 14. (Photo courtesy YouTube)

North Island – Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has had enough.

Blaney is currently in the midst of pressing the government to provide more support for rural communities that are facing a health-care disaster, specifically in her riding.

She recently brought up the “appalling health-care conditions” and called for the government to “increase the government health-care transfers to provinces” in a letter to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Blaney also raised questions about the crisis during the House of Commons question period and in a debate with the parliamentary secretary.

“Since Spring 2022, hospitals throughout the North Island have struggled with staffing shortages which have forced them to periodically close emergency rooms, place temporary bans on walk-in patients, and limit hours of service,” Blaney wrote in her Jan. 20 letter to the ministers. “These staffing shortages are placing barriers on accessible health care in the region by forcing residents to travel long distances with risks to their immediate health and safety.”

It’s no secret that emergency rooms in Port Hardy, Alert Bay, and Port McNeill have been dealing with increasingly frequent unplanned rotating closures. Additionally, Campbell River’s outpatient lab has closed to walk-in patients repeatedly due to staffing shortages.

One patient collapsed at a local emergency room [in Port Hardy] after seeking medical help and finding the ER closed.

“Meanwhile, a pregnant woman reported being forced to give birth without her partner because she had to be transported to another community when she could not access medical care,” stated Blaney, adding that patients are being forced to travel hours to get help, putting additional strain on the few hospitals with emergency rooms that remain open, and increasing the risk to their own health.

“Closures of emergency rooms are directly linked in our riding to a lack of staff,” Blaney said during a debate with the parliamentary secretary. “They are tired, they are burnt out and they are leaving. The federal government must stand with its provincial counterparts to support strategies to both attract and retain healthcare professionals across Canada’s rural communities. It is not sustainable, what is happening right now, and it is not safe.”

Blaney noted that the government does not have a plan in place to recruit and retain immigrant health-care workers in rural and remote regions, such as the North Island – Powell River. She has urged the ministers to remember that rural areas require different recruitment and retention solutions than urban centres.

“Our health-care system is collapsing, and this is a crisis of epic proportions,” Blaney added. “Workers are at a breaking point. People in our communities feel unsafe and they are concerned that emergency rooms will not be available when they are needed. Increasing the Canada Health Transfer would address this urgent situation. I will not let the government forget about our duty to Canadians who live in rural communities that are significantly impacted by gaps in our health care. New Democrats and I are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the medical care they need.”

Visit Rachel Blaney’s website to download and sign her petition to help create a meaningful solution to the health-care crisis.


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