Cancelled flights have northern Ont. hospital risking ER closure
With doctor shortages causing emergency rooms around the country to shut down, a northern Ontario hospital is scrambling to prevent the same fate.
Travelling physicians needed by Notre-Dame Hospital in Hearst to keep its ER open face chronic flight cancellations out of Toronto's Pearson airport, according to recruitment coordinator Melanie Goulet.
"Already we are having a hard time finding physicians to work in our small community, and having flight cancellations just complicates everything," said Goulet.
She had to ask another travelling doctor to work an extra 24 hours during the recent long weekend, when his replacement's flight was cancelled the day of its departure.
"It was about five hospitals over the past weekend that had to close their ER, and we were almost one of them also," Goulet said.
"I can't even imagine the day that we'll have to do that."
Dr. Vivian Ma was supposed to fly from Montreal to Timmins on June 30, and drive three hours north to fill a vacant spot at the Hearst hospital's ER.
She said after her first flight arrived in Toronto, Air Canada notified her that a connecting flight was cancelled and would be rescheduled for July 2, the day after her shift was scheduled to start.
Ma said it's a frustrating situation that's been going on for weeks.
"For the last two months, every single one of my flights coming here has been delayed, the three times I've come here in June, and all my flights have been cancelled," said Ma.
She said the only options are to book a flight with Porter, drive more than nine hours to Hearst or wait for the rebooked flight with Air Canada.
Ma said Porter's same-day flight to Timmins was fully booked during this latest mishap, so she bought a ticket for the next day.
"I promised to provide services, and not being able to come here and do the work that I promised to, knowing that emergency patients will not be seen here, it affects me in that sense," she said.
"I just want to be able to come here and fulfil my duties."
Staff shortages at Toronto airport
Management at the Timmins’ Victor M. Power airport said cancellations and delays have been affecting hundreds of passengers flying in and out of the city.
Issues at Pearson International Airport due to staffing shortages and construction delays are causing Air Canada flights north to be cancelled.
Timmins airport manager Dave Dayment said the airline is cutting flights in hopes of offering stability.
"They've reduced us to two flights a day and even at that, the last five days, the afternoon flight that leaves at 6 o'clock has been cancelled the last five days," Dayment said.
Monday's flight board showed an inbound and outbound flight had already been cancelled.
"The next three days, they are scheduled to be on time, but we won't know that until the day of."
Dayment said the level of coordination needed to land planes at an airport and get in the sky is such that any lack of efficiency or staff can set back schedules or cancel flights.
Timmins' airport is limiting delays on its end, he said.
With Pearson struggling to manage the hundreds of flights coming in, flight disruptions are inevitable.
He suggested passengers frequently check their flight's status and activate text alerts to be notified about delays or cancellations quickly.
For Ma, there's little security that her next flight to northern Ontario will operate on schedule, and she's trying to make contingency plans.
"I'm just pre-emptively buying a second ticket on the same day, in case Air Canada cancels my flight," she said.
Goulet added that other doctors she's talked to are making similar plans, buying several plane tickets with different airlines to ensure they make it to the hospital.
That's all at their own extra cost, she said.
'It might mean I can't come here anymore'
"There is so much planning I can do and coming this often, it's not always feasible to have five plans," said Ma.
"If, however, things fall through on my next travel here, then it might mean I can't come here anymore."
That's the worst fear for both Ma and Goulet, especially with the summer being one of the worst seasons for physician shortages.
Goulet said Notre-Dame Hospital is looking for a long-term solution.
"We're even thinking of approaching local people in our community that have planes, to see if they can take their own personal plane to go pick up a doctor," she said.
The hospital is even considering paying Ornge Air Ambulance to fly doctors into town, Goulet said.
The hospital intends to contact government officials and Air Canada to try and find a solution.
CTV reached out to Transport Canada for comment, which said it is working with federal agencies to address travel disruptions affecting the whole country.
"While progress has been made, some challenges remain, particularly for travellers facing flight cancellations and issues with baggage services," Transport Canada's senior communications adviser Sau Sau Liu said in an email.
"Work continues with air industry partners to further reduce the delays in the air travel system and Transport Canada will continue to update Canadians on the progress."
As for a small northern town that needs doctors to arrive at its hospital on time to provide care to the community, Goulet said Hearst can't handle this situation much longer.
"We need to have a doctor in our emergency room."
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The Canada Revenue Agency says it will be sending e-notifications about uncashed cheques to 25,000 Canadians this month.
Canada's privacy commissioner says the belated disclosure that RCMP has for years been using spyware capable of accessing cell phone and computer microphones, cameras and other data as part of major investigations, is a clear example of why Canada's Privacy Act needs updating.
Saskatoon police say a woman who had been reported missing is facing charges in the United States related to unauthorized use of identification and in Canada related to parental abduction and public mischief.
Authorities in the Northwest Territories are monitoring a large 'zombie fire' that flared back up following last wildfire season after smouldering underground during the winter months.
A 4.6 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Vancouver Island.
Housing correction in Toronto could end up becoming 'one of the deepest of the past half a century,' RBC warns
A housing correction which has already led to four consecutive months of price declines in the previously overheated Greater Toronto Area market could end up becoming 'one of the deepest of the past half a century,' a new report from RBC warns.
Newly revealed photographs reveal two occasions on which former U.S. President Donald Trump apparently flushed documents down the toilet.
The white father and son convicted of murder in Ahmaud Arbery's fatal shooting after they chased him through a Georgia neighbourhood were sentenced Monday to life in prison for committing a federal hate crime.
For millennial and gen Z Canadians, owning a home in this real estate market might seem like a pipe dream. In an exclusive column for CTVNews,ca personal finance contributor Christopher Liew offers some strategies to consider if you can’t afford the housing market yet.
More than 50 cows were killed in a fire that broke out at a barn in Essa Township on Sunday afternoon.
Officers from the OPP's Grey Bruce detachment are investigating after recovering the body of a missing person from a lake.
Police in Angus said a 46-year-old man is facing an impaired driving charge after a truck crashed into a ditch.
BREAKING | Two workers trapped, two others taken to hospital after trench collapses at Ajax construction site
Four workers have been injured in a trench collapse at a construction site in Ajax.
Police have charged a 41-year-old man with second-degree murder after a male was found dead inside an apartment building in Hamilton over the weekend.
Advocates are sounding the alarm on the city’s current approach to extreme heat, saying the framework does little for Toronto's homeless community, as the city sees its third straight day of heat warnings.
Three people were injured, one critically, after a fiery crash on Highway 174 overnight.
Ottawa's Confederation Line LRT will be closing early on a total of 10 days this month as crews perform maintenance on the tracks, with reduced service planned on parts of the line for two other nights.
Ottawa police say one man was stabbed early Sunday morning in the ByWard Market.
Brantford Police have issued an arrest warrant for a man and are asking the public for help identifying a second man following a police chase which resulted in multiple collisions and the two suspects evading arrest.
Commuters should expect cancellations of some GO train services as Metrolinx warns of staffing shortages relating to COVID-19.
A crash between a sedan and motorcycle, on a highway in between Guelph and Kitchener, has resulted in life-altering injuries.
The intense heat and humidity will break with the passage of a cold front Monday night into Tuesday morning. But, showers and thunderstorms are bubbling up in advance of the cold front on Monday.
Three people are facing weapons charges after an illegal "ghost gun" was seized by Sarnia police over the weekend.
A St. Thomas area farmer has turned his darkest day into the brightest field in the London region.
Windsor police are looking for four suspects after an assault on Glengarry Avenue.
Windsor police are asking for the public’s help after a hit-and-run collision between a cyclist and a vehicle.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has issued 7,858 suspension orders to local high school students over incomplete immunization records.
Montreal police are investigating the suspicious death of a man discovered in a bin during recycling collection in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Monday morning.
Montreal Pride parade organizer Simon Gamache admits that they messed up when they cancelled the event at the last minute Sunday.
Firefighters pulled a dead body from the St. Lawrence River in Montreal's east end Monday morning.
The deputy mayor of a southern Newfoundland town says his community is running out of food as it remains cut off from the rest of the island due to the worst forest fires the province has seen in more than 60 years.
Halifax has cancelled 75 bus trips due to a lack of transit staff, and the union representing the drivers says staffing levels will likely get worse before they get better.
A weather front sprawling out of Ontario and Quebec is leading a low pressure system across the Maritimes Monday through Tuesday. Rain, drizzle and fog are expected in the region with some areas experiencing heavy rain for a period of time.
A Manitoba woman who abused and killed her daughter in one of the province's most notorious crimes has been granted escorted temporary absences from prison.
Winnipeg Police are looking into a reported shooting early Sunday morning in River East.
A man in his 40s was hospitalized after he was hit with a machete during what police describe as a concerning robbery in Winnipeg's Weston area.
Calgary police have laid charges in a brutal assault last month that resulted in a man's death, saying the victim and the accused were roommates.
Officers were called to the 1500 block of 35th Street S.E. at 10 p.m. for reports of a man with weapons who was acting erratically.
Calgary is expected to see temperatures ranging between 29 C to 34 C on Monday.
Police say two people are no longer "at large" after a "possible abduction" from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in northern Alberta Monday morning.
Odd summer timing and an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada could be the reason thousands of tickets to the World Junior Hockey Championship are still available on the eve of the tournament, says an Edmonton professor.
An Edmonton woman was charged after she was pulled over for excessive speeding while impaird with a child in the car, police say.
A conspiracy theory about 'new world order' is not a valid argument in a recent foreclosure case involving a home in Vancouver, a judge in British Columbia ruled.
A teenager died following an ATV rollover in the Williams Lake area over the weekend, police in that area say.
Teams from Apple Maps may be spotted in Metro Vancouver and other parts of British Columbia in the coming weeks as they chart areas using backpack kits and vehicles.