Questions raised around staff shortage at Burns Lake Hospital

Northern Health denies staff shortage during the incident

A two-year-old’s near-drowning and the ensuing delay in medical services has once again sparked the conversation in Burns Lake around staffing shortages.

On Aug. 20, the Burns Lake RCMP was called to assist EHS as a child was pulled from the water, said Cpl. Madonna Saunderson of the RCMP.

“The child was transported to the hospital for medical treatment. No further information is available,” noted Saunderson.

After the incident, several people in Burns Lake remarked that there was a delay in responding to the child’s care and that the child later had to be medevac’d due to those delays.

In response to this, Northern Health responded, in an email to Lakes District News saying, “BC Emergency Health Services confirms it responded to a call received at 7:46 pm on Aug. 20 and arrived at the hospital afterwards – at which point the hospital emergency department was staffed, and not on diversion.”

Northern Health however confirmed that the hospital experienced a temporary period of diversion of emergency department services between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on that day due to nursing staff coverage challenges.

“But regular emergency department operations had resumed at 7 p.m. on Saturday,” confirmed Northern Health. “Patients requiring life-threatening emergency care are always advised to call 9-1-1 if they are in an emergency. Our patient transport partners are always fully informed of any emergency department service disruptions, to ensure patients are transported to the nearest available and appropriate facility depending on the type and level of care they require.”

The health authority however couldn’t share whether the two-year-old was transported out citing privacy reasons. Lakes District News was later told the infant was medevac’d to Victoria General where she has made a full recovery and is now back home.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends impacted by this event. For privacy reasons, we would not discuss or confirm details related to individual patient care. In general terms, though – decisions to transfer a patient to a higher level of care are based on a clinical assessment by care providers, of the patient’s needs,” said the health authority.