Kaslo and Area Chamber of Commerce is speaking out against looming cuts to their community’s ER because of what it will do to people and the economy.
“This isn’t just a health issue; it’s an economic issue,” said Daphne Hunter, Chamber president. “Our local business stakeholders rely heavily on an already short summer tourism economy. The last three years have seen a substantial decrease in visitor numbers due to economics, bad weather and natural disasters. If our tourism numbers dwindle any further because visitors are worried about inadequate emergency services, local business will be forced to move to more lucrative areas.”
Interior Health proposes the ER at the Victorian Community Health Centre be reduced to the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday with after-hour and weekend coverage provided by Nelson and Trail hospitals.
The Village council took a similar stand against the planned cuts to the ER last week passing a formal non-confidence resolution.
Hunter added that cuts are in complete contradiction to IH’s promise last fall to find a way to continue ER services.
IH commissioned the Ross Report in which Dr. John Ross, a Nova Scotia physician and expert on rural health, explored the current state of health care in Kaslo. Among other things, Ross suggested ER services be maintained using remote physician support and technology.
Hunter echoed community concern saying this report has been ignored.
“It’s very frightening,” said Hunter. “The impending loss of our 24-hour emergency services risks serious long term ramifications for our community.
Hunter explained that for residents living in nearby outlying areas, the closure means a minimum drive of two hours to Nelson, in extreme cases they could be sent on to Trail another hour away.
“For a resident of Johnsons Landing, this could mean a three-hour drive in good weather to access emergency services” Hunter said. “The loss of these vital services poses severe implications for the community.”
“We’re worried this shutdown of core services is going to cause an exodus out of our community,” she said.
Hunter said the situation needs to be fixed without delay.
“The decision to shut down our emergency services has been made with little consideration — and that shows,” she said. “We’re calling on the IHA to reverse course and work with the committee and the community towards solutions that ensure critical services can be re-instated before our community suffers irreparable harm.”
Hunter noted that Kaslo & Area Chamber has spearheaded a fax and letter writing campaign to the Minister of Health and IH. She said that as a result the Chamber will be sending 187 letters to the Minister of Health and IH this week to urge IH to reverse course and maintain the 24/7 services in Kaslo.
“When hundreds of local residents come together to push for a fix, you know we’re facing a crisis,” Hunter said. “This situation is untenable for our community.”