Interior Health has confirmed it plans to reduce the hours of the emergency room at Victorian Community Health Centre in Kaslo to Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., effective November 2.
In a news release today, the health authority explained that recruiting and retaining physicians and nurses at the hospital has been a “long-standing challenge,” and the emergency department has had 60 service interruptions this year due to limited nursing and physician resources.
“Kaslo residents deserve a stable ER service, rather than the frequent closures experienced this past year,” Interior Health community director Linda Basran said in the statement.
“Interior Health recognizes this represents a change for Kaslo and it was a decision that we came to after careful consideration, jointly with the community’s physicians, who have informed us they can no longer sustain 24/7 call coverage. This option will provide for a consistent and sustainable service to the community for the long-term.”
“Kaslo physicians have told us that by moving to a fully daytime, weekday service they will be able to see more patients during the busiest hours of the day,” said Dr. Alan Stewart, medical director for community integrated health services. “They will be better able to meet the community’s primary care needs.”
The announcement confirms what Kaslo mayor Greg Lay told the Star earlier this week. He says the community may need to offer incentives to attract doctors to work in the area.
Lay was inspired by Nakusp, where earlier this summer money donated to the hospital auxiliary was used to buy a four-bedroom house for a physician to live in while he worked there. Now Lay is putting feelers out to see if his residents would like to do something similar.
“If we leave it to [Interior Health Authority] to make the decision for us, we’re on a route that will mean Kaslo won’t have 24-hour emergency services much longer,” said Lay.
Lay also heard Interior Health was planning a meeting tonight at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kaslo, but it wasn’t advertised publicly, so last Friday he circulated the information on Facebook. Not long after, Lay said he heard from Interior Health that the meeting was cancelled.
So, the mayor decided to rent the hall himself and hold his own meeting, with his own agenda, on the topic of local health services. Upon doing that, Lay said he received another call from Interior Health saying their members would attend Lay’s meeting.
Lay expects they will just be there to listen, although the statement released today indicated they would also address any questions.
“They won’t hijack the meeting,” Lay said. “This is our meeting with our agenda. We want to talk about options to keep the emergency room open, not try to justify why it should be closed.”
At Kaslo council Tuesday, councillors unanimously supported two motions put forward by Lay regarding the hospital.
One asked Interior Health to put a two-year moratorium on any changes to local emergency services, and the second asked them to work at the community level to resolve any issue of providing 24-hour emergency health services.
“Right now the community is being left out of the conversation, when we’re the ones that might be able to come up with creative solutions,” Lay said.
He acknowledged that not everyone in Kaslo might be keen to have their taxes raised to cover the cost of incentives to attract doctors to the community.
“I’m not sure people are going to want to do it — that’s the public discussion that needs to occur,” Lay said.
Andy Shadrack, the regional district director representing rural Kaslo, said all his information about potential changes at the Kaslo hospital has come from Lay, rather than Interior Health.
“The Interior Health communication system has completely broken down,” Shadrack said. “If IHA has problems, they shouldn’t just go off in a room by themselves and make decisions. I’d be completely in the dark about this if Mayor Lay hadn’t found out about it.”
The Interior Health statement said the health authority understands that with the reduced service, transportation to other hospitals will be “critical” in emergencies.
“As a result, discussions are underway with the BC Ambulance Service regarding creating more employment opportunities for local paramedics and working together to support health care services in the community,” the statement said.