“Long waits, limited services and restricted hours,” is how Keremeos resident Shaun Adams described the current state of the health system in the village.
The South Similkameen Health Center in the Okanagan Village is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but is closed nights and Sundays.
“There are no doctors available, we can’t get doctor’s appointments in this town. And so, this place doesn’t meet the needs of the community at all,” Adams said.
“And a month-long wait just to get into a lab for a blood test already – that’s inefficiency, not the fault of the already hard-working staff.”
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According to Interior Health, outside of the health center‘s current hours, residents should call 911 or go to one of three nearby emergency departments – Penticton, Princeton or Oliver – which are each approximately 40 minutes.
“If you have a heart attack or stroke after hours or on a Sunday, you have no hope of being served at this establishment. You have to call 9-1-1 and hope for the best,” Adams said.
Interior Health said it’s important to note that critical patients are often redirected to higher level care centers in the region.
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The South Similkameen Health Center is facing a staffing crisis that has impacted wait times.
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The number of doctors at the center dropped dramatically after the province introduced a mandatory COVID vaccination policy for healthcare workers last year.
Residents of Keremeos worried about restricted emergency hours
Mayor of Keremeos, Manfred Bauer, said the staffing shortage goes beyond just doctors.
“Like so many other municipalities in British Columbia, we’re going through the same staffing shortage issues — (the) pandemic has certainly contributed to that,” Bauer said.
“It’s a bigger problem. It’s not just the shortage of doctors, (it’s) nursing… lab techs, addiction mental health counselors.
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The mayor said that while the staffing shortage is a concern, the village is actively working to find solutions.
“Maybe easier access to school, maybe financial incentives so that people entering this field (not) are stuck with big debts when they get out,” Bauer said.
“(We) are already trying to do incentives in terms of how can we provide supportive housing for these kind of (medical staff). We are looking at the big picture, but of course, as a small community, we rely on the province to do the major work.
The population of Keremeos is the oldest in the Similkameen-Okanagan
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