Who do you believe more – doctors at South Okanagan General Hospital or Interior Health administrators?
They are so opposite in their opinions that it’s hard to believe they work together.
But let’s look at the facts.
Emergency department (ED) closures at SOGH have plagued this community for some time. IH will give the reason that physicians are not available to fill these shifts for various reasons, such as holidays or illness.
But doctors will say the primary reason is inadequate wages, adding there is no incentive to work the ED when you can make much better wages in your own practice or at Penticton Regional Hospital.
There was much talk about an alternate payment plan to bump up these wages for Oliver doctors, but that application was denied by the Ministry of Health. This defies all logic, and is a slap in the face to local physicians entrusted with the health care of this community. I guess if they were professional sports stars, that would be a different story.
Why shouldn’t our local physicians be paid the same as their Penticton counterparts? It makes no sense.
The ministry and Interior Health have an obligation to ensure that our hospital’s emergency department is kept open at all times. That means making it worthwhile for doctors to cover these shifts.
We apparently have a good recruiting program, but our retention program is sorely lacking. Several doctors were recruited a year ago and they were expected to fill the gap in emergency room coverage. But that didn’t last long and some of them have apparently moved on.
This has prompted fear among a couple of lead physicians who predict more closures and cuts to service.
But a recent letter to Oliver Town council (from Interior Health) indicates there are no plans to change service levels at SOGH. No immediate plans, anyway. However, Dr. Peter Entwistle says discussions have already been held to close the emergency department at night, only to open for life-threatening emergencies.
That’s an unsettling revelation that should have all stakeholders involved in some serious talks.
What is mystifying is the fact Interior Health announced some significant upgrades to the emergency department. So why would the authority close or change any services after committing all that money? It should be noted that none of these upgrades have started yet.
The bottom line is SOGH has undergone a lot of changes (and cuts to service) over the years. It used to be a bustling facility with full maternity services, but sadly that disappeared.
We can’t afford to lose any more of SOGH, and both the ministry and Interior Health need to be held accountable for that.
Our hospital has suffered enough.