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Kaslo ER on verge of part-time hours

A year after Kaslo
A year after Kaslo's full-time ER was threatened with reduction in hours, the community is reeling as 24/7 coverage will soon end.
— image credit: File photo

A community’s concerns are mounting, as the emergency room in Kaslo will soon only be open part time.

On the verge of losing their 24/7 coverage due to Interior Health’s inability to secure physician coverage during a year-long recruitment effort, residents of the community are converging Wednesday evening to discuss a report recently released on the role of emergency care in Kaslo.

Called the Ross Report, Dr. John Ross, a Nova Scotia physician was asked by Interior Health, at the recommendation of Kalso residents, to explore the current state of their rural ER.

The report suggests that ER services be maintained using remote physician support of a nurse practitioner. Ross also recommends community involvement in the recruitment process, using more full-time and part-time positions than casual employees and including physicians in management of the centre while freeing them from complicated paperwork.

“[Victorian Community Health Centre] of Kaslo has all the basic ingredients to be a very successful centre… It has a well-educated, engaged community which is active and relatively free of addictions and chronic social problems that plague some more remote communities. The Health Centre is centrally located, well designed and highly functional,” says Ross in the report. “The current issues are not complex historical/cultural problems nor is there a need for capital intensive renovation/rebuilding. Problems relate mostly to process, staffing, communication, relationships, organization, and innovation challenges. These can all be addressed and resolved.”

Kaslo resident Tyler Dobie says he and others are disappointed in Interior Health’s reaction to the Ross report. They responded to several of the East Coast physician’s points in a copy recently made available.

“IH still wants to do the same thing they always wanted to do — cut costs, reduce front line health care services to make room for more administration and executive costs which we never had before Health Authorities — despite trying to pretend that they are 'listening' to community input,” he says.

In the report, Interior Health says they are acting on some of the recommendations put forward and they thank Kaslo and its citizens for “their dedication to the consultation process” and promises to work with residents during the transition in services — a reduction in ER hours.

“Based on analysis we have done, and the input we received during this spring’s consultation sessions, we believe Kaslo and area residents would best be served through stable and robust primary care services that meet their regular, ongoing healthcare needs — ready access to physicians, mental health and public health nursing services,” the IH says. “Adjusting emergency department hours will allow us to focus on primary care and make the best use of the resources we have available to us in Kaslo.”

It’s proposed the ER at the Victorian Community Health Centre will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday with after-hour and weekend coverage provided by Nelson and Trail hospitals.

Residents will meet to discuss the report at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at J.V. Humphries School. Organized by the Kaslo Health Care Working Group that includes Kaslo Mayor Greg Lay, Area D Director Andy Shadrack and other members of the community, Maggie Winters is a steering committee member who will attend.

Leading up to the meeting, Winters says she understood the report would be brought back to her committee for discussion and forward movement.

“Interior Health made a response to the recommendations before consulting with the community first so we could make perhaps a joint response. That was disappointing,” she says.

She feels closing the ER and then reacting doesn’t keep the community safe. Ensuring ambulance coverage, for example, should come first.

“We’re saying that’s backwards. In reality the fail-safe procedures need to be put in place first before any reduction of ER hours,” she says.

A year has passed since IH originally intended to close the ER in Kaslo to public outcry. Winters says it may seem like the community has gotten nowhere in that time.

“ It would be easy for people to feel we’ve accomplished nothing,” she says. “But we’ve learned a lot through that year of discussions. I think Interior Health has learned a lot about us during that year of discussions. And we have the Ross report. And we have hope that the recommendations in that report will still serve as an impetus for improving the services we have in Kaslo.”

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