At least five registered nurses will lose their jobs as a result of the reduction in emergency room hours in Kaslo beginning November 1.
Interior Health Authority announced late yesterday that, beginning next month, the emergency room at the Victorian Health Centre in Kaslo would only be open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Currently, nurses work around the clock to staff the ER. During evenings and weekends a doctor is on-call and only comes into the hospital when a nurse calls them. The new hours will mean the ER will be closed completely during evenings and weekends.
But the chair of BC Nurses’ Union West Kootenay Branch, Tina Coletti, believes nurses should continue to be available in the ER, even if a doctor isn’t.
“There are many things a registered nurse can do without a doctor,” Coletti said. “We can start an IV, help manage bleeding and defibrillate people. We could call a physician in Nelson to get orders and direction.”
Coletti attended a Kaslo public meeting with Interior Health on Thursday night to suggest this option.
“They’re not interested in any alternative solutions,” Coletti said. “I suggested four options and they wouldn’t consider any of them.”
The other options Coletti suggested included hiring nurse practitioners to staff the ER when doctors aren’t available, hiring locum physicians (people who come to the area temporarily to fill in) to work on-call hours, or negotiating an arrangement to allow the village of Kalso to employ the nurse practitioners to work at the hospital.
Nurse practitioners, unlike registered nurses, can diagnose disease and provide treatment to patients, including prescribing medication. They are considered a threat to physicians because their practical skills are similar.
Kalso currently doesn’t employ any nurse practitioners, Coletti said.
She also noted that Kaslo doesn’t have the same difficulty filling recruiting nurses to work in its community as it does with finding doctors.
Mayor Greg Lay said he already knows of a nurse practitioner in Alberta who is planning to relocate to Kalso.
“[Interior Health] needs to consider alternative models of care,” Coletti said. “We’re urging them to reverse their decision and keep the Kaslo ER open — and we’re here to help them with solutions for how to do that.”