Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali told a loud group of protesters outside Princeton Hospital that doctors aren’t coming to town because they can’t practice what they learned in school.
“Doctors and health care professionals are under utilized in small communities because the government strategically pulled out services and put them in other areas,” he said.
Doctors want to practice what they learned in medical school, including performing surgeries and delivering babies – practices Princeton Hospital no longer does, he said.
More than 150 people gathered outside the hospital at 11:30 a.m. today, holding signs saying “Save Our Hospital: Accidents Happen,” “Beware of Falling Standards,” and “We All Need 24/7 ER.”
Princeton Hospital emergency department will be closed from midnight to 8 a.m. Monday to Thursday, said Interior Health Authority at the beginning of April.
Many residents thought the hospital would be restored in a year, but Princeton Hospital administrator Susan Brown said it will now take a least a year for changes to happen.
Interior Health is trying to attract a new doctor to Princeton, a job the authority admits is extremely difficult.
Rural towns are experiencing health care shortages because of the amount of time new doctors are willing to work, said Interior Health president Robert Halpenny.
“There are a lot more physicians now not willing to work 24/7. A lot of women have children and work two to three days a week, and not on weekends. It’s a coverage issue,” he said.
But Lali said health care problems are caused by lack of money, not by how much doctors are willing to work.
“You’re going to hear this from IHA and from the government: it’s not about the money, it’s about the doctors. I tell them to their faces that this is a lie. It is about the resources and the money.”
IHA is set up as a business model, so when money runs out health care is negatively affected, he said.
Princeton business owners and managers had a closed-door meeting this morning to discuss how the scheduled emergency department closures will affect them.
The meeting was closed to media, but Weyerhaeuser manager Jeff Larsen told the Spotlight the emergency department should be running 24/7 because of industry in Princeton.
“We’re really concerned. We try our hardest to make sure there are no injuries, but it’s still a high risk industrial site,” he said.
Weyerhaeuser runs nearly 24 hours a day, so injured employees would have to travel to another community at least an hour away if they were hurt during scheduled closures.
Copper Mountain Mine manager Bill Dodds told the Spotlight employees face a similar problembecause the mine runs 24 hours a day.
“We do everything we can, but there can still be an unfortunate accident. Our employees deserve proper health care,” Larsen said.