The Vancouver Island Health Authority is scrambling to cover unfilled shifts over the holidays.
There were as many as 5,400 unfilled shifts when staffing director Sandra Bjola posted a memo on Dec. 5 saying: “These vacancies could have implications for service levels and our ability to deliver safe care to our patients.”
The memo said further discretionary leave requests — including vacation time, banked time and unpaid leaves — would not be accepted for December.
About 1,400 shifts have been filled, according to a memo sent on Thursday.
The number is expected to drop again by next week, said VIHA spokeswoman Shannon Marshall. The health authority doesn’t anticipate service reductions beyond those usually seen at this time of year.
“We’ve traditionally slowed down [operating room] activity during Christmas, summer and spring break,” she said.
Surgeries are slated to accommodate this schedule, she said.
“We try to make it possible for as many of our staff and physicians as possible to enjoy the holidays with family and loved ones — and many patients also don’t want their procedures scheduled over Christmas,” Marshall said.
Clinics — including a heart function clinic and a geriatric outpatient clinic — are also scaled back to allow available staff to be on call for urgent issues.
“The public can remain confident that, if they come to a hospital requiring emergency procedures during the holiday season, they will get it,” Marshall said.
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