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2 North Okanagan medical labs closing due to staff shortages

Click to play video: 'Staffing shortages close two North Okanagan labs' Staffing shortages close two North Okanagan labs
North Okanagan patients may find it tougher to get a lab test. Two medical labs in the region are closing due to staffing shortages. The hope is that both will reopen eventually, but as Megan Turcato reports, there is no timeline for services to resume. – Oct 28, 2021

North Okanagan patients may find it tougher to get a lab test, as two medical labs in the region are closing due to staffing shortages.

The hope is that both will reopen eventually, but there is no timeline for services to resume.

Valley Medical Laboratories has been providing lab services out of the Lumby Health Centre one day a week, but, due to what the company describes as an extreme staffing shortage, that will end after next week.

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Barbara Dyck, executive director for Lumby and District Health Services Society, called the news disappointing.

“We are so busy with one day a week that people are waiting anyway for lab services,” Dyck told Global News.

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“And now not having lab services, even once a week, is going to cause a lot of stress.”

Dyck said travelling to Vernon from Lumby, Cherryville and further points will cause undue hardship.

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She said some residents don’t have the ability to book online, and that there is limited transportation options.

“I’ve had some patients in tears,” Dyck said. “And it’s pulling on me because I feel their stress.”

Dyck noted that some patients are waiting for blood results prior to going for surgery.

“That’s causing problems, too,” said Dyck.

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In a memo, Valley Medical Services said it is committed to restoring services to Lumby as soon as possible, and the company is continuing to recruit and train staff.

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However, even if Lumby patients travel to Vernon, they’ll likely find it harder than usual to get an appointment, as Interior Health closed its medical lab location at the Sterling Centre in Vernon as of Tuesday.

And some are expecting that will mean longer waits for service elsewhere.

“There are a few options around here, but normally you’ll find that they are backed up,” said area resident Kennedy Fried.

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Interior Health blamed the temporary lab shutdown on a long-standing staffing shortage.

The health authority also said the shutdown is not related to the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, which came into effect on the same day that the lab closed.

In a statement, Interior Health said “these professionals are in high demand and unfortunately on occasion, Interior Health has needed to adjust and make temporary changes to lab services throughout the region. We continue to actively recruit for these positions.”

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It’s hoped both labs will eventually reopen, but there is no word yet on when that will be.

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