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Closures of 2 ERs in B.C.'s southern Interior putting pressure on region's biggest hospital

A nurse holds a tablet in this stock image from Shutterstock. A nurse holds a tablet in this stock image from Shutterstock.

At an already challenging time for health-care workers in British Columbia, the temporary closures of two emergency departments in the southern Interior is putting pressure on the region's largest hospital.

The B.C. Nurses' Union says the temporary closures in Creston and Elkford mean more patients will rely on the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook.

Nurses at that hospital, working in its intensive care unit, say the ICU is often operating "anywhere between 115 per cent and 133 per cent overcapacity," according to union vice-president Adrian Gear.

And that's with staffing levels as low as 50 per cent some of the time, she said in a news release Thursday.

"This cannot continue to be the norm."

Gear said patients in the Kootenays are feeling the impacts, and blames the B.C. government for a lack of strategy when it comes to recruiting and retaining nurses in the region.

According to the BCNU, the province's own numbers show more than 26,000 nurses will be needed by 2031. Statistics Canada's latest data shows a vacancy rate of about 4,000 nurses.

Earlier this year, the provincial Health Ministry announced $12.2 million in funding had been set aside for efforts that will make it easier for international nurses to practise in the province. 

In February, the ministry announced the addition of 602 more spaces to train new nurses, and the University of British Columbia mentioned an increase in applications to nursing school. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the following month that the province is working on a 10-year strategy addressing staffing issues in the health-care system.

The minister has also faced criticism around a family doctor shortage in B.C., and issues with emergency health services including access to and staffing for ambulances. 

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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