Open letter to health minister Terry Lake, Interior Health CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny, and Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall:
I am writing to express my concerns with the health service delivery provided in Kaslo. In a word, insufficient.
Last fall, IHA agreed to find a way to continue to provide Emergency services at the Victorian Community Health Centre of Kaslo.
After efforts in the spring, which were time-consuming, energy draining, but designed to look hopeful to the locals, not much has changed. ER services are continually on diversion and now decreased to office hours (9 to 5, Monday to Friday). This would be satisfactory in an urban centre, where the nearest ER is not, minimally, one hour distant as it is for us.
IHA assures us that they are doing, have done, and will continue to do their utmost to advertise and attract physicians to Kaslo. This is something that also has not changed — advertising is restricted and difficult to find, contacts from local residents not followed up on, and — shame, shame —one energetic, willing doctor was not paid!
At the spring meetings and in Dr. Ross’ report many alternative suggestions were put forward to provide the services needed in a cost efficient and novel way. In fact, IHA patted itself on the back saying that the agreement reached in Kaslo would be the model of rural health delivery in their region, noting that most rural areas were having similar difficulties.
But, alas, empty words from IHA, yet again. Reducing services is not novel, nor does it solve the issues in rural areas. An excellent opportunity was at hand to create something unique, efficient and valuable. That opportunity still exists, if the political will is there.
I pay the same taxes for medical services as my friends in urban centres. Yet, I, and my neighbours, do not expect the same services as urbanites. We expect to have physician services during regular office hours; we expect emergency services within an hour, as promised; we expect to travel one to three hours for specialty services; and we expect to travel much further for tertiary services. This is not unreasonable.
On a personal note, I live in Johnsons Landing which is one hour’s travel from Kaslo in good weather. I expect to travel this distance for both regular and emergency services; and I expect that travel to all my other health service needs will be two to three hours and more.
Note briefly: IHA promised a novel, creative, state-of-the-art primary health centre for Kaslo. Instead, they used a “same-old” model. There is nothing creative about the centre, although the committee of local residents again input novel, workable, cost-efficient ideas.
Note also: the money spent to bring Dr. Ross (a wonderful resource and human being) from across the country, to bring several dozen IHA staff to Kaslo, to create pages and pages of documents could have better been used to fund a physician.
And note again: best practices utilize local input in creating workable contented medical facilities; something IHA fails miserably at.
I would like Terry Lake, to instruct IHA to create a new, unique, creative solution to providing 24/7 emergency coverage for us.
I would like Dr. Halpenny, to provide direction to appropriate staff to create a new, unique, creative solution to providing 24/7 emergency coverage for us.
I would like Michelle Mungall, to push for (“demand consistently” as my dictionary defines it) the political will to provide 24/7 emergency coverage in rural areas, noting that urban solutions are not the “creative” model needed for rural situations.
Kate O’Keefe, Johnsons Landing
The Interior Health Authority’s decision to reduce emergency services to Kalso will only result in hardship to the members of that community, and those members who live in outlying communities serviced by Kaslo.
Contrary to the Ministry of Health’s strategic goal No. 3 which speaks to accessibility of timely, safe, and appropriate hospital services that support the needs of the patients and their families, the IHA’s decision to reduce services at the Victorian Hospital in Kaslo will do exactly the opposite.
Losing the emergency services in Kalso will reduce the ability to triage and stabilize patients with medical emergencies. The loss of these services will result in patients having to travel to Nelson, by either private vehicle or the provincial ambulance service. Those patients may then require more critical intervention and the delay in providing service may result in increased complications and deaths.
In light of the negative impact to our families and communities, I urge the IHA to look at all models of care, including the use of nurse practitioners, promotion of nurse first call and remote nursing practice certification for RNs, in order to maintain 24/7 services in Kaslo.
Lorne Burkart, Regional Chair, West Kootenay Region, BC Nurses’ Union