Staffing shortages have forced a temporary closure of Ucluelet’s outpatient medical lab services, Island Health announced last week.
“Island Health, like all health authorities across B.C. and Canada, is experiencing a shortage of qualified medical lab support staff,” the announcement reads. “This temporary closure will enable Island Health to consolidate staffing to support necessary services at (Tofino General Hospital). Recruitment efforts are ongoing and it is expected that the Ucluelet outpatient lab will re-open when staffing levels allow.”
It adds that the temporary closure was required in order to “ensure reliable, consistent inpatient and outpatient laboratory services at Tofino General Hospital.”
Patients in need of lab services are being told to travel to Tofino General Hospital’s outpatient lab and the hospital’s hours have been extended to accommodate the increase in traffic, according to the announcement.
Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel told the Westerly News the announcement has raised frustration in the community, which saw its medical clinic nearly shut down before Island Health stepped in earlier this year.
“There’s lots of eye-rolling,” Noel said. “People are uncertain and hoping that this doesn’t become the new norm. All we can do is wait to see.”
He added that he understood that staffing shortages are an issue for Island Health, noting though that people living outside the region may think commuting between Tofino and Ucluelet is easier than it actually is, especially for those with mobility issues and residents without vehicles.
“There’s a lot of people who think it’s OK and reasonable for us to drive to Tofino, but for anyone who lives in Ucluelet we know the answer is that it’s completely unreasonable and we just don’t want that,” he said.
“We’ve done our dogfight with them (Island Health) recently about trying to protect our clinic, but this is just another prime example of the challenges that Island Health has and unfortunately it appears that this is going to be an ongoing subject here for the next few years until something dramatic changes.”
Residents can receive up to date information on local lab services through islandhealth.ca or 1-877-370-8355.
“We acknowledge the inconvenience of this temporary change and appreciate people’s patience as we work to support acute and outpatient services at TGH,” Island Health said through last week’s announcement.