It’s hard to believe that something could overshadow Salt Spring’s first Local Community Commission election, but that is exactly what has happened.
After months of rumours and back-channel buzz, most of Salt Spring Island’s physicians issued a letter to the community on May 19 outlining the dire state of affairs at Lady Minto Hospital when it comes to staffing shortages. The letter was sent from the LMH Medical Staff Association to its main community partners: the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, the Salt Spring Community Health Society and the Salt Spring Health Advancement Network, as well as Island Health, and was also filed with the Driftwood.
For residents, the most alarming part of the letter is news that for 25 overnight shifts between now and the end of August, the emergency room will have no on-site physician services available. Island Health was quick to formulate a response, pointing out that off-site physicians are consulted remotely to support the emergency department in those cases, and admitted that has already happened four times this spring. Midwifery and psychiatric services are also severely impacted, the medical staff say.
The giant elephant in the room is the brand new, larger emergency room currently growing at the hospital site. Island Health has always promised it would cover the extra costs of staffing that facility, but if they can’t staff the current ER it begs the question how they plan to take care of an expanded one.
The Copper Kettle Community Partnership has already offered to spearhead a broad community effort under a “save our hospital” banner. Partnership members Marsha Goldberg and Cherie Geauvreau and others on their team are calling on all non-profits, businesses, churches, charities, schools and sports organizations to participate, as well as concerned individuals. They say they need places to set out petitions and sign-up sheets for volunteers and suggestions.
We can support those efforts, but they and other community members need to hear exactly what our hospital medical staff feel is needed and how those things might be achieved. We look to the three community partners listed above to liaise with the physicians and Island Health, and to work with groups like Copper Kettle or others to get the most effectiveness out of any grassroots campaign.