Grand Forks’ Boundary Hospital (BH) is temporarily closed to overnight stays owing to a vital nursing shortage, the Interior Health Authority (IH) confirmed Wednesday, March 23.
Dr. Shallen Letwin, IH’s Vice President for Clinical Operations, said the closure affects 12 beds at a long-term care ward near the hospital’s emergency room (ER). There has been no disruption to the ER, which remains fully open to patients, Letwin stressed.
All 12 beds were occupied as of Wednesday morning, at which point Letwin said the hospital began discharging some ward patients to home care while transporting others to neighbouring hospitals, depending on their health needs.
Letwin said he and his senior management team at IH decided to close the ward because there weren’t enough nurses on the ward to safely care for overnight patients. BH has enough working doctors at the moment.
There should be six nurses managing the overnight ward in shift rotations. “Right now, we have one,” Letwin said.
There had recently been around seven nurses on rotation at the ER when there should have been 10. The hospital has since pulled nurses from other wards to ensure ER patients will continue receiving full and safe round the clock care.
IH hopes to re-open the overnight ward “absolutely as soon as possible,” Letwin said, qualifying that he couldn’t specify a firm timeline. The ward will come back online in a phased approach as more nurses came onboard, he explained.
IH had been aware of lower staffing levels at BH for “many months,” but the shortage grew more acute as hospital nurses went on temporary leave, either to continue their training or to attend to family matters. Letwin said BH has not lost any permanent nursing staff as a result of the province’s vaccine mandate, which now requires all medical professionals to be at least partly vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the month.
“The whole health care industry is starting to look for more professional staff — It’s not unique to Grand Forks or B.C.,” he followed.
IH is ramping up recruitment efforts through online postings, job fairs and consultations with teaching facilities, where Letwin said the health authority is reaching out to recent graduates. IH has been working in close partnership with the provincial health ministry.”
Letwin said he’d spoken with Grand Forks’ Mayor Brian Taylor on Tuesday, when he said they discussed plans to maintain and build on in-patient treatment at BH.
Anyone admitted to BH’s ER who needs an overnight stay will be triaged and then transported to an in-taking hospital in the region, Letwin said. No one has been turned away from the ER, nor will they be, he said.
Patients transferred to overnight stays outside BH will not have to pay for transportation by ambulance or helicopter, IH confirmed Friday, March 25.