A photo of the West Coast General emergency department entrance sign on a moody day.
Photo Credit: Susan Quinn | Alberni Valley News

Port Alberni Emergency Room Could Have Closures for Months?

A healthcare worker on the inside called CBC with a hot tip

Healthcare workers are burnt out and quitting, or they’re getting sick—it’s a perfect storm

A healthcare worker in Port Alberni’s West Coast General Hospital called CBC with bad news. They’re running low on staff. They’re running so low on staff that the emergency room may need to close for 8-hour periods a day through August and September.


The emergency room at West Coast General sees 60 to 80 patients a day. The hospital serves 18,000 folks who live in and around Port Alberni.

And for two months, people who have health emergencies may need to drive to Tofino or Nanaimo to get care.

The healthcare worker who told this story to CBC wants to stay anonymous because they’re afraid they’ll lose their job. But they said the emergency room might have to close for these extended periods because there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, and other staff to keep it running. That’s very, very bad.

Hospitals in other provinces are having similar problems.

Dr. Raj Sherman is an Alberta doctor-turned-politician. He worked shifts in emergency rooms even when he was an MLA.

“Not only can we not attract staff to Alberta, we’re bleeding staff,” he’s reported saying in the Calgary Herald. “We’re losing young doctors out of the province, and doctors my age are saying, ‘We’re shutting it down early.'”

Cathryn Hoy is the president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association. She says Ontario is having the same staffing struggles.

“The staffing shortage is [because of] the burnout and people leaving,” she told the Globe and Mail.

“But why they’re burning out is because they come in for an eight or 12-hour shift, and they’re staying 16 hours. Sometimes they’re staying 24 hours.”

In smaller hospitals, if one or two staff get sick, the whole department shuts down. And lots of healthcare workers are getting sick.

The emergency room in Port McNeill has closed a few times this year.

CBC asked Health Minister Adrian Dix what the government plans to do. His answer? Keep trying to hire healthcare workers.

But that takes a long time.

And folks need care now.

If West Coast General doesn’t get reinforcements, we could be in for a long summer.

*Editor’s note: this article has been updated to reflect that closures will be for 8-hour periods a day rather than the whole two months.