Residents of Red Lake will face a more than two-hour drive to the nearest hospital when it temporarily closes this weekend.
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa is calling on the provincial government to take immediate action to prevent the temporary closure of the emergency department at Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital.
The hospital will be forced to close the emergency department for at least 24 hours over the weekend due to a shortage of doctors, and could be stuck offering limited hours in the future until more doctors are recruited, said hospital CEO Sue Lebeau.
The hospital normally has a staff of seven full-time doctors, one of whom is assigned to the emergency department, while others carry out family medicine, inpatient care and a range of other duties, a- she declared.
The nearest hospital by land is 2.5 hours away in Dryden, Lebeau said.
It’s a situation that Mamakwa called unacceptable, calling on the Ford government to send emergency aid.
“Families in Red Lake should be able to access emergency health care when they need it,” he said in a statement Friday. “If someone you love has an accident or a heart attack this weekend, they will be hours away from the help they urgently need.”
“Ford needs to send human resources to Red Lake immediately. Red Lake families deserve access to emergency medical care for themselves and their loved ones, whenever they need it.
The hospital turned to Health Force Ontario for help, something the agency has proven successful in the past, Lebeau said. However, in this case, the hospital was informed after a search that no resources were immediately available.
It’s the first time in at least eight years that the Red Lake hospital will be forced to close its emergency room due to a lack of staff, but Lebeau thinks difficulties recruiting doctors from the area could make it a more regular event.
“We may be the first community in a long time to experience this, but I predict we won’t be the last,” she said, noting that other regional hospitals have recently “almost” found themselves in the same situation.
She hopes issues such as physician compensation models and distribution will be seriously reconsidered by the provincial government to address the longer-term issue.