It’s no April Fool’s Day joke.
The Interior Health Authority is scaling back physician coverage at South Okanagan General Hospital effective today.
Beginning this evening, a physician will be called into the emergency department during the night (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) to respond to emergencies, rather than remaining on location for an entire shift, the Interior Health Authority (IHA) quietly announced Friday.
“During these nighttime hours, all patients will be able to access the emergency department, and will continue to be assessed by an emergency room nurse, just as they would during the day,” a release from the IHA reads. “A physician on-call will be at the hospital or close by and available at all times to respond to emergency care needs.
For true emergencies or patients under the age of 17, the nurse will call the physician, ensuring a rapid response to the emergency department.
Patients with time-sensitive, but less serious conditions will have arrangements made to go to the Penticton Regional Hospital Emergency Department, by ambulance or private vehicle, as appropriate.
Patients whose condition can wait until the next day to be seen will be given the option of remaining in the waiting room, returning in the morning, or scheduling an appointment with their family physician.
The South Okanagan General Hospital (SOGH) emergency department will continue to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.During the busier daytime hours (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), a physician will continue to be on location at the emergency department for all patient visits.
The IHA says the “interim staffing measure” will allow the hospital to improve the sustainability of physician coverage in the emergency department, improve the availability of the physicians in the area to see patients during the day and continue working towards a long-term, sustainable model of health services.
The IHA doesn’t say how long the interim measure will be in place.