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Omicron-driven staffing shortages lead to service interruptions in Island Health facilities

Elective scheduled surgeries postponed again, psychiatric emergency care potentially affected
Staffing challenges driven by Omicron cases numbers have significantly impacted the ability of Island Health to provide safe, quality care, health authority president Kathy McNeil said. (Black Press Media file photo)

Island Health has announced the prolonged delay of elective surgeries, divergence of ambulances and shift of staff schedules across several Island hospitals, as a result of the Omicron variant leaving departments short-handed.

“Omicron-driven COVID-19 staffing challenges significantly impact the ability of Island Health staff and medical staff to provide safe, quality care for those whom we are responsible to support,” said Island Health president Kathy MacNeil in a release. “While temporarily pausing or changing services has a real impact on those who have to wait longer for care, we recognize it is necessary at this most extraordinary time.”

READ ALSO: Island Health’s top doc delays retirement, citing Omicron wave

Elective, scheduled surgeries at the health authority’s three largest sites – Royal Jubilee, Victoria General and Nanaimo General hospitals – will be postponed until the end of January after initially being postponed at the start of the month. Surgery out-service care at the sites will also be slowed down and allocated to those with the highest need.

Additionally, Victoria’s Admirals Walk outpatient lab will be closed until April 1 and regular patients are being advised to visit the VGH outpatient lab. The Sidney outpatient lab at 2357 James White Blvd. will see hours reduced to 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and will be closed temporarily on Saturdays. The Saanich Peninsula Hospital outpatient lab will re-instate Saturday hours 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ambulance trips to the emergency rooms of Port Hardy and Port McNeill hospitals will be rotated as required, based again on staffing at each site.

READ ALSO: Island Health declares 3 new Greater Victoria care home outbreaks, 2 others over

At hospitals across the health authority, staff availability will be adjusted on a day-to-day and shift-by-shift basis, “in advance whenever possible,” to the best use of available human resources, the release stated. As a result, admission to psychiatric emergency services, one example offered, may be paused temporarily with patients rerouted to emergency rooms where staff are available.

“These are not actions we want to take, and we don’t take them lightly knowing the impact they have on those we serve,” MacNeil said. “We are grateful to the residents of the communities of Vancouver Island for their understanding and continued support of our health care teams during this challenging time. We also acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of our teams who continue to work tirelessly to ensure patients receive the highest quality care possible despite these challenges.”

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About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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