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Concerns being raised over doctor shortage, lack of health care in Keremeos, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Lack of health care in Keremeos concerning area residents' Lack of health care in Keremeos concerning area residents
Lack of health care in Keremeos concerning area residents – Jun 2, 2022

“Long waits, limited services, and restricted hours” that is how Keremeos resident Shaun Adams described the current state of the health-care system in the village.

The South Similkameen Health Centre in the Okanagan village open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. but it is closed overnight and on Sundays.

“There are no doctors available, we cannot get a doctor’s appointment in this town. And so, this place is not at all meeting the needs of the community,” said Adams.

“And a one-month wait just to get into a lab for a blood test already – that’s getting out there on inefficiency, which is no fault of the staff working hard already.”

Read more: Emergency room doctor sounds alarm about Kelowna General Hospital being overcapacity, understaffed

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According to Interior Health, outside of current health centre hours, residents are required to call 911 or visit one of three nearby emergency departments – Penticton, Princeton, or Oliver – which are each approximately 40 minutes away.

“If you have your heart attack or stroke afterhours or on a Sunday, you have no hope of service in this facility. You have to call 9-1-1 and hope for the best,” said Adams.

Interior Health said that it is important to note that critical patients are often diverted to higher-level care centres in the area.

Read more: B.C. bringing in vaccine mandate for all remaining health-care workers

The South Similkameen Health Centre is dealing with a staffing crisis which has impacted wait times.

The number of doctors at the centre dropped dramatically after the province introduced a mandatory COVID vaccination policy for health-care workers last year.

Click to play video: 'Keremeos residents concerned about emergency room’s restricted hours' Keremeos residents concerned about emergency room’s restricted hours
Keremeos residents concerned about emergency room’s restricted hours – Nov 2, 2021

Keremeos mayor Manfred Bauer said that the staffing shortage goes beyond just doctors.

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“Like so many other municipalities in B.C., we are going through the same problems with staff shortages – (the) pandemic certainly has contributed to that,” said Bauer.

“It is a broader problem. It’s not just doctor shortage, (it’s) nursing … lab technicians, substance-use mental health counselors.”

Read more: Health workers call for plan in federal budget to handle crisis in healthcare

The mayor said although the staffing shortage is concerning, the village is actively working to find solutions.

“Maybe easier access to schooling, perhaps, money incentives that people who go into this field (don’t) get stuck with large debts when they come out,” said Bauer.

“(We’re) already trying to do incentives in terms of how can we provide supportive housing for those kinds of medical (staff). We’re looking at the whole picture but of course, as a small community we are relying on the province to do the major work.”

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Keremeos’ population the oldest in Similkameen-Okanagan – May 4, 2022

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