Two South Okanagan town councils are now seeking written assurance from the Interior Health Region that South Okanagan General Hospital’s emergency room will remain open and 24 existing beds at the facility in place.
In a letter addressed to IHA President and CEO Chris Mazurkewich and signed by Mayors Sue McKortoff and Ron Hovanes, Osoyoos and Oliver councils say they “expect answers” from the Health Region to questions that are currently “creating worry and anguish” among South Okanagan residents.
The letter reports on two meetings held with Town of Oliver Council.
The first, involving Dr. Peter Entwistle, until March 31 the hospital’s Chief of Staff, included information on the possible removal of six of the hospital’s 24 beds.
“While the reduction of funded beds from 24 to 18 occurred almost five years ago, that 25% cut is currently affecting hospital users in the south Okanagan with access to acute care,” the letter reads. “The removal of beds is creating worry and anguish to south Okanagan residents.”
After a second meeting, held April 10 and involving SOGH manager Carl Meadows and Dr. Brad Raison, the hospital’s interim Chief of Staff, Oliver council determined to bring back IHA administrators within six months to “provide an update on the short and long-term plans for staffing.”
“Mayor and Council expects answers to these concerns and assurances that SOGH will not see the removal of beds, that staffing will be immediately reviewed and that the Emergency Department remains open,” the letter concludes.
The letter, says Mayor McKortoff, was written by the Town of Oliver, which asked its sister South Okanagan community to sign it.
The Town of Osoyoos has its own health issues to deal with, including a call from some of its citizens for it to assist in the creation of a walk-in clinic and improved access to family doctors.
“We just think that IHA needs to take a little bit more ownership of helping with some of the concerns that we have in the medical field,” Mayor McKortoff said this afternoon.
The Town, she added, is limited in what it can do to resolve health care concerns. That includes pushing doctors to open and staff a walk-in clinic.
“We certainly understand from the doctors’ point of view they can’t have somebody tell them you need to set up a walk-in clinic and man it — that’s not the way it works,” she said. “I think you’re going to hear a lot more about it.”