How many hospitals are on Haida Gwaii?
Anyone who lives here knows the answer: two. There is the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre, and the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre — Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay.
But when local staff speak with colleagues off-island, they sometimes run into trouble because the English name for the new south-end hospital — the Haida Gwaii Hospital — suggests there is only one.
Village councillors in Masset raised the issue with Northern Health a year ago, suggesting a switch to “Southern Haida Gwaii Hospital.”
Councillors were told no Haida Gwaii staff or physicians had reported any confusion.
But last week, council decided to try again.
“Everything we get back says, ‘Yeah, there’s no problem, there’s been no issues,” said Councillor Tony Tyler, speaking at a Masset council meeting on March 26.
But Tyler said that’s not what he hears from front-line staff at the northern hospital.
“They have to dig deeper for answers,” he said. “They’re not asking the right people.”
Tyler said one nurse at the hospital in Masset recently phoned to request an extra night nurse for a patient who required one-to-one care.
“It got to the end of the night, she was finishing up her shift, and nobody had come in yet,” Tyler said.
When the nurse phoned back to see what had happened, she found the off-island staffing office had got confused and assigned someone to the south-end hospital by mistake. When “Haida Gwaii Hospital” popped up on their computer, they had assumed it was the only one here.
Tyler said the same nurse recently spent 20 frustrating minutes on the phone with the BC Patient Transfer Network for the same reason.
“They were trying to transfer a patient from Vancouver to Masset who was not a Masset patient — they were a Queen Charlotte patient,” Tyler said, and staff at the transfer network couldn’t understand why the Masset nurse was refusing the transfer.
Finally, the nurse spoke with someone else who knew Haida Gwaii has two hospitals, 109 km apart.
When it opened in 2008, the hospital between Old Massett and Masset was given the name “Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre.” It serves everyone north of the Tlell bridge, which is about half the islands’ population.
In late 2016, the new hospital in Queen Charlotte was given the name, “Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre / Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay.” The six-member naming committee included people from Queen Charlotte, Skidegate, and Sandspit, but not from north-end Haida Gwaii.
Northern Health policy does make it possible to rename a hospital. The change requires a written request, review by a naming committee, public consultation, and a ministerial order.