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ER situation critical

Health care is front and centre this week with news the emergency room (ER) at St. Mary's Hospital is on life support. Dr.

Health care is front and centre this week with news the emergency room (ER) at St. Mary's Hospital is on life support.

Dr. Jane Bishop forwarded Coast Reporter a letter she sent to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) urging, if not begging, for action from the health authority.

The ER is facing a serious doctor shortage, and if something isn't done soon, patients may be turned away.

According to Bishop, a significant inflow of new doctors is needed. Currently there are 16 full-time medical staff at the ER, which is down from 23 just two years ago. Eight of those staff are nearing retirement age, while another two are 60-plus, so retirement is imminent. With the aging population on the Coast, there are more patients with complex medical problems and not enough doctors to treat them.

The shortage of doctors isn't being felt only in the ER.

Sechelt Medical Clinic has had a notice up on their door informing patients that due to the doctor shortage at the ER, they can't staff their clinic effectively.

VCH is well aware of the letter and has sent a representative from the health authority to meet with doctors here on the Coast. That representative is due back sometime in March. But this week when we tried to press VCH for more answers, they really didn't have any. They couldn't tell us what work was being done or when further discussion would take place.

We understand that this is a complicated matter and VCH is dealing with many issues throughout the health region, but when you have a situation such as the one we're faced with at St. Mary's and it gets to the point where patients may be turned away from the ER, you would think it demands more immediate action.

Last week, VCH was in our community unveiling plans and receiving public comment on the proposed hospital expansion. The project is long overdue and will be welcomed by this community, but what good is that expansion going to do when we have more patients in those new beds and no doctors to treat them?

For the sake of health care and the sake of the medical staff who are working hard at our hospital and clinics, give them the support they need to do their jobs properly and effectively.

We demand some answers VCH - and we need them now.