About 100 people attended a protest rally on Monday morning in Kaslo. Gathered around the ‘Doctors Please’ sign are Ken Hart

Kaslo rallies for doctors

Upset Kaslo residents are voicing their concerns about an ongoing doctor shortage that’s forced periodic closures

Upset Kaslo residents are voicing their concerns about an ongoing doctor shortage that’s forced periodic closures to the community’s ER for well over a year.

On Monday morning, around 100 members of the frustrated community held a protest rally at the Victorian Community Health Care Centre. Organizer Ken Hart said he’s seen declining service since arriving to Kaslo in 1996 and it’s time to stand up before more than just beds are lost.

He fears the entire facility will be shut down.

“Interior Health is continuing to take health care away from Kaslo,” said Hart. “We’re all pretty choked because we’re paying a ton of taxes and what are we getting for it…. We live here and we should have what we had which is: phone a doctor, get an appointment and get taken care of.”

The protest rally beg at 9 a.m. and ended at 10 a.m. so as not to disrupt operations at the health care centre. Residents discussed the next steps as the continue to pressure IH for a fix to the problem. Attendee Tyler Dobie said many talked of taking their hospital back from the health authority who has run the facility for the last 12 years.

“It was run by a volunteer board of directors for 100 years before IH was contracted to take over the management of this facility for the province, which has resulted in a top-heavy bureaucracy of highly paid executives taking money out of the budget that should be going to front line staff,” he said.

Dobie said residents are also going to document their experiences to submit them the IH.

Kaslo resident Erwin Ammon pointed out that when “Doc Olsen was doctor here for 30 years, he could usually get an appointment the same day, and now he waits three weeks or more,” Dobie relayed. “While there are urgent care appointments available each day, many visits do not qualify as urgent, even if they are.”

Hart, a business owner in the community at the north end of Kootenay lake said the people of Kaslo aren’t going to stand by anymore. This is the first time residents have banded together to show opposition publicly.

“It’s time to make a noise,” he said.

Hart said staff at the facility aren’t able to speak out but locals hear their frustrations mirroring their own. Many residents don’t trust the health authority and want more accountability for the way the community hasn’t been properly supported.

“It’s a smoke and mirrors show… They tell us something to make us feel better and then go do something else,” he says.

On the heels of the protest, the IH scheduled two more closures to the facility this week. The ER was closed overnight Tuesday and again Wednesday.

IH wasn’t available to comment on the rally but Cheryl Whittleton, who handles community integrated health services for the Kootenay Boundary, previously spoke on the matter of reduced service.

“We understand the frustration the community feels,” she said. “We don’t want to see disruptions in service.”

IH said they understand the problems closures cause and are working toward a solution actively recruiting for permanent and locum physicians.