Island Health continues to monitor and respond to impacts of Highway 4 closure

As the closure of Highway 4 carries on into a third week, Island Health continues to implement contingency plans to minimize impacts to patients and clients and ensure emergency services are there for those that need them.

Maintaining emergency and acute care services at West Coast General Hospital (WCGH) and Tofino General Hospital (TGH) has been the top priority throughout the closure. Shortly after being informed of the highway closure, plans were developed to support the continued movement of care providers, physicians, support staff and critical medical supplies.

“The response from our teams, everyone from frontline care providers to logistics and support staff, has been nothing short of inspirational,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair. “I am so proud of the tireless efforts to continue to put the needs of the communities we serve at the forefront.”

Local nurses, physicians, medical staff, other care providers and support staff have continued to go above and beyond to maintain Island Health services, including at hospitals and in the community. There have been no broad service interruptions and essential services have been maintained. There has also been incredible support from Island Health staff and physician partners from outside the region, with dozens answering the call to travel to the west coast to cover shifts and offer relief to local teams.

“Since the very first day of the closure and every day since there have been so many examples of problem solving and innovation to meet the needs of our patients, clients and communities,” said James Hanson, Vice President, Acute Care North and Community Services. “Everything from coordinating more than 200 seats on chartered flights to implementing temporary alternative chemotherapy options on-site at WCGH.”

Key actions include:

  • Coordinated daily air travel in and out of the community to ensure safe, timely transportation for staff to maintain service levels at WCGH and TGH, as well other Island Health services. There have been no broad service interruptions at our acute care sites or to community-based services.
  • More than 200 seats have been coordinated on flights in and out of the community.
  • Implemented temporary alternative chemotherapy services on-site at WCGH. This involved mixing and preparing chemotherapy doses in Nanaimo and flying in all medical supplies, a physician and chemo trained nurses.
  • Extensive coordination to ensure the continued flow of time sensitive supplies and lab samples in and out of community, using both air travel and the alternate route via Lake Cowichan. Island Health teams travelled a minimum of one ground trip in each direction per day via the alternate route.
  • Supported local long-term care homes, as needed, including HEPA filters to mitigate risk from wildfire smoke and medical supplies.
  • Developed contingency plans to support discharged patients or patients receiving care at hospitals outside of community ready to return home.
  • Created central online resource for staff to access information on the situation, supports available, travel/accommodation options.

Island Health is committed to continuing to support our care teams, staff and physician partners as we navigate this ongoing challenge. We are also thankful to the people in the region for their continued support, patience and understanding.

A backgrounder with frequently asked questions is attached with information on specific services and topics of interest for people living in the region.

For up to date information on the status of the Highway 4 road closure visit