The safe bet this Friday evening: the Emergency Room at the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver will be closed.
The Interior Health Authority (IHA) released a PSA — “a public service announcement” — early Thursday afternoon indicating that due to “limited physician availability” the Emergency Room will be closed overnight, beginning at 6 p.m.
It won’t reopen until 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
The IHA also “regrets this interruption to our normal emergency department services,” although it notes it is “working closely with our physician group to secure coverage” but so far had been unsuccessful.
Except for some instruction — in the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1, visit the emergency department at Penticton Regional Hospital and/or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 if you are unsure about your need to go to the emergency department — that’s the extent of the official release.
What’s not said is Dr. Peter Entwistle, who stepped into the breach two weekends ago to keep the ER open the last time it was facing a temporary closing, is in the British Isles on vacation and won’t be available this weekend.
And there’s nothing to explain why, during the most recent provincial election, the IHA managed to find the money — reportedly a $1,000-per-shift bonus — to bring out-of-town doctors to Oliver to cover eight to 10 shifts but can’t find any money now, even though the South Okanagan as a community is much busier than it might have been in April or early May.
The entire ongoing General Hospital soap opera stinks to high heaven and it’s not the smell of antiseptic cleanser wafting through the air.
Folks living in the South Okanagan deserve better than to live with — at best — the inconvenience of having to travel up to an hour farther for acute medical care.
They don’t need the added risk of an extended ambulance ride, should they find themselves in a critical situation.
And they certainly deserve some straight answers about why the SOGH ER is now a “second-class” department, what the future holds for it and if — and how — the IHA intends to return service to its proper level.