A doctor shortage is forcing Interior Health to cut emergency department hours at the health centre in New Denver.
As of Feb. 1, the Slocan Community Health Centre emergency ward will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
It currently operates 24/7, which is part of the problem, says Interior Health.
“One of the barriers in recruiting doctors for the region has been requiring them to cover emergency department services overnight and on weekends,” says an IH news release issued today. “By making this change at the SCHC, it is hoped that physician recruitment efforts will be successful.”
The emergency department saw 1,400 visits in 2016-17, or about five a day. While IH has been able to bring some locums in since September, it became clear to officials recently they weren’t going to be able to find permanent support for the lone physician in town anytime soon.
“The reality is, we cannot sustain 24/7 emergency department services and, if we continue as we are now, we risk losing our ability to provide ongoing primary care that will meet the majority of health care needs for local residents,” says Karen Bloemink, Executive Director IH – East, Hospitals and Communities Integrated Services.
She said IH has been working with local authorities since last summer to try to attract new physicians to the community.
Additional ambulance services are being added in the area to support 9-1-1 emergencies and ensure patients can be transferred to alternative facilities when required, IH notes.
IH says after Jan. 31, patients requiring emergency care outside of new weekday emergency department hours should:In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1.Visit the emergency department at Arrow Lakes Hospital in Nakusp (open 24/7).Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 (24 hour service) if you are unsure about your need to go to the emergency department.
“Our priority is to ensure residents can access a permanent physician who they see regularly; a physician who is familiar with their history and their ongoing health care needs,” says Bloemink.
The focus for IH now is to attract new doctors to support the one doctor on duty in the community now. The change in hours will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.