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Blind River emergency room temporary closure averted

A planned emergency room closure due to doctor shortage in Blind River on Friday has been avoided, the North Shore Health Network says.

CTV News reported the temporary closure announcement Wednesday and on Thursday morning, the health care group said in a news release the ER will remain open.

"NSHN would like to thank the community for your continued patience and understanding as we work with our partners towards sustainable resources to serve your healthcare needs," NSHN said.

It would have been the fifth closure in the last two weeks for the North Shore Health Network (NSHN), which consists of Blind River, Thessalon and Richard's Landing.

The Town of Blind River is nestled on Highway 17 in between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

Patients in need of services would have been re-routed to either Thessalon -- 54 kilometres away -- or St. Joseph's General Hospital in Elliot Lake -- 57 kilometres away.

"Look, nobody got into this line of work to not provide service for our communities. It's demoralizing as an administrator and I think it's doubly so for our clinic staff and the folks that really just want help and come to us in need," said NHSN CEO Tim Vine.

"Look, we need more, we need more physicians in the north. We've known that for a long time. I know NOSM increased its enrolment this year, but it's not enough."

The network recently was able to find coverage for its Thessalon site. That ER will resume operating Wednesday night as of 8 p.m.

"We need the policy levers at Queen's Park to start moving, especially around residency programs which is a bottleneck to providing more physicians into the system," Vine said.

The system is looking at an imbalance and what they need are more physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants along the North Shore and throughout the province of Ontario, he said.

CTV News also reached out to Blind River Mayor Sally Hagman, but didn't hear back before publication. 

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