ER closures put residents at risk

NDP health critic Mike Farnworth says health system is failing rural communities.

The closure of the emergency department at Chase Clinic over the holiday season will put area residents at risk, says New Democrat health critic Mike Farnworth.

In a Dec. 20 media release, Farnworth says the closure from Dec. 23 to Jan 3 is due to doctor shortages over the holidays, something that will affect thousands of residents and commuters in the area.

“The Liberal government is failing communities by allowing these emergency room closures to happen,” said Farnworth. “These disruptions in care mean there is something wrong with the system.”

Farnworth notes patients who are unable to get emergency medical care will have to drive long distances in possibly poor winter conditions.

For Chase and area, emergency visits will mean a 45-minute drive to either Kamloops or Salmon Arm. Residents on the North Shuswap can add another half-hour or more to that.

“Anyone who has ever driven on these highways knows that adding kilometres to an emergency call will put patients at risk,” said Farnworth. “The Liberal government’s lack of commitment to rural health care in B.C. has created this mess.

Bryan Redford, community area director Interior Interior Health West, says the Chase Clinic needs three doctors in order to have the ER open.

“We have a third doctor coming to Chase, but at the moment we only have two so we have to use locums,” he says, something that is very difficult to find at this time of year. “We’ve managed locums but not on these dates. Of course we regret that and we’ll keep trying.”

A Dec. 19 IH press release announcing the closure suggests that residents:

• call 911 in the event of an emergency

• Use the ER departments in Salmon Arm or Kamloops for non-urgent matters

• If individuals are unsure about what services they require, they can phone the 24-hour HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

The Chase Clinic will remain open with other services provided as usual. The ER room is normally open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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