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Limited doctor availability reduces Keremeos’s emergency department access

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Keremeos area residents will have reduced access to emergency health services.

Interior Health said there will be a temporary change to the emergency department hours at the South Similkameen Health Centre due to limited physician availability.

As of Nov. 1, the emergency department will be open from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those who have an emergency will be funnelled to Penticton Regional Hospital, South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver and Princeton General Hospital.

Read more: Kelowna care home continues to see COVID-19 deaths

Interior Health did not offer insight into what caused the physician shortage but the Okanagan is dealing with a health care labour shortage that’s been exacerbated by the vaccine mandate.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a press conference last week  Interior Health had 1,369, or seven per cent of employees who were unvaccinated, as of the vaccination deadline.  Other health authorities had between two and five per cent of their workforce go on leave with the policy shift.

This is happening at a time when Interior Health is facing the “extraordinary challenge” of being at 100 per cent of its “base bed capacity” within hospitals.

“Obviously, health authorities are taking steps, across B.C., to deal with the challenges presented by this,” Dix said of the employee shortfall.

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Efforts are underway to transfer some health-care workers to Interior Health and to hire new employees, he said.

Dix said, however, the reduction in staffing will challenge the delivery of some medical services, particularly diagnostic imaging and lab work, and some surgical procedures, though, to date, IH has not had to reschedule surgeries.

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