Residents of Kaslo are organizing a rally before the village council meeting next week as a representative from Interior Health is slated to appear.
Andrew Neuner, VP of Community Integration, will give a delegation to council at their regular meeting Tuesday in light of IH plans to end 24/7 ER in Kaslo. Resident Tyler Dobie is organizing members of the community.
“We don’t know what Interior Health is coming to say at our village council meeting, and the community is coming out to listen, but also to show that we are united in insisting that Interior Health explore the many solutions which have been presented to keep our rural facility open,” he said.
The rally is another show of force from a community that is pulling out all the stops on a plan that has them worried about the future of health care at the north end of Kootenay Lake.
After learning the health authority is planning on reducing ER coverage to focus on primary care based on an inability to provide consistent physician coverage, the community has mustered.
The village council officially passed a non-confidence resolution last month and the Chamber of Commerce has spoken out against the IH decision as well leading the charge on a letter writing campaign. Close to 200 letters were submitted and 500 people signed a petition demanding ER remain open 24/7. Dobie points out there are only 700 adults living in Kaslo.
Some residents have since received response to their letters — a form letter that has raised alarm bells.
Resident Louise De Pape and her husband Charles were among several residents upset at receiving the “third-party” letter and called it an insult on the Facebook page Healthy Kaslo.
“Once more, it seems that there is no real effort to hear the concerns of the stakeholders and a pathetic attempt to placate us. Shameful and disrespectful,” wrote Louise.
The letter on behalf of Terry Lake, Minister of Health from the patient care quality office of IH said “As you may know, IH executive staff have been working with elected officials and members of the community of Kaslo to discuss, among other things, the ongoing challenges of maintaining 24/7 Emergency Department (ED) coverage at Victorian Community Health Centre. As a result of these meetings it was mutually agreed that the residents of Kaslo will be best served by the provision of consistent, robust primary care, as opposed to 24/7 ED service.
This type of service delivery model is expected to both aid in physician recruitment and reduce the demand for emergency services.”
Johnsons Landing resident Kate O’ Keefe was another recipient of the letter and she concurs with others that loss of ER services didn’t come from “mutual” agreement. She wonders if the ministry of Health was “fed erroneous information” from IH.
In his response to Lake’s letter, Dobie said, “as far as I know this is a unilateral decision by Interior Health against the wishes of the entire community.
Perhaps it was mutually agreed by the B.C. Ministry of Health and the Interior Health Authority.”
Health care has been a hot topic in front of village council. On November 5, they also heard from Jessie Renzie, a rep for the BC Nurses Union who has 22 years nursing experience and has been working for the last few years at the Victorian Community Health Centre. She told council rural emergency departments fill an important role in rural health care.
“Losing 24/7 emergency services in Kaslo would reduce the ability to triage and stabilize patients with medical emergencies,” she said to council. “Those patients may then require more critical intervention and the delay in providing service may result in increased complications and deaths.”
Large traumas are only a small percentage of late night admissions but Renzie said lesser emergencies such as a sick child at 2 a.m. and seniors who have fallen and fractured hips still need immediate attention.
“Patients need to be treated and stabilized prior to ambulance transfer to hospitals, sometimes hours away, cardiac patients needing immediate treatment to prevent further damage to their hearts and health,” she said mentioning she had several other examples.
Interior Health was contacted by the Nelson Star but didn’t reply before press time.