Red Lake residents in an emergency situation may be out of luck this weekend.
The Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Hospital has announced that their emergency department will be closed between 8 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday, due to a shortage in local physicians able to work in the department.
Hospital leadership says people with emergency health issues should call 911 and request ambulance assistance, where they will be transported to Dryden’s hospital over 216 kilometres away.
Urgent care will also be available at the Red Lake Family Health Team from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday. Residents are asked to call 807-727-2617 during that time to book an appointment.
For less emergent health issues, residents are asked to call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000.
“We have been working hard to find physician coverage to avert this closure. We wholeheartedly want to avoid our community being in this situation. We will provide an update, should the situation change,” wrote the hospital, in a prepared statement.
"A pervasive lack of Health Human Resources in many professions has caused a serious strain on the delivery of care in Northwestern Ontario. This includes Physician shortages, which have been a threat to health care delivery for many years.”
“The Hospital and the Red Lake Medical Associates continue to advocate for equitable access to necessary healthcare resources, and to seek long-term solutions to address human resource shortages in our area,” the hospital finishes.
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa calls the situation a crisis, and is calling on Ontario to send immediate staffing resources to Red Lake.
“Families of Red Lake should be able to access emergency health care when they need it. If someone you loved has an accident or a heart attack this weekend, they will be hours away from the help they urgently need,” says Mamakwa, in a prepared statement.
“The closure of Red Lake Memorial’s emergency department due to a physician shortage is a crisis and the Ford government must send more resources immediately to make sure this emergency department can stay open.”
“Northerners always have to wait too long and travel too far to get the health care they need. This shortages of physicians, nurses and other health care workers is only getting worse, and Ford refuses to act.”
“Ford must send staff resources to Red Lake immediately. Families in Red Lake deserve access to emergency medical care for themselves and their loved ones, whenever they need it,” finishes Mamakwa.
Mamakwa notes earlier this week, the Ford government voted against the NDP’s motion to fund a plan to attract, train and retain nurses, physicians and specialists in Northern Ontario.
Ontario ranks seventh among Canadian provinces in the number of family doctors per 100,000 patients, and the shortage is made worse in northern and rural areas, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
They add that Ontario spends an average of 8 per cent less on healthcare per capita than any other province in Canada outside of British Columbia.