Interior Health is saying it is optimistic that several strategies will ensure stability and fair remuneration for Oliver doctors. But those strategies remain a secret for now.
In a letter to Town council, Interior Health’s vice-president of medicine and quality, Dr. Michael Ertel, said they have met with several physicians to explore options for financial compensation and improving the work environment at South Okanagan General Hospital.
The recent meeting included a discussion on the denial of the alternate payment plan that local physicians were counting on. Doctors say there is no financial incentive to cover emergency department shifts at SOGH, so they applied for better compensation through an alternate plan (paid per hour, not per patient). But the Ministry of Health did not approve the application.
Local doctors now fear the emergency department will fall prey to more closures.
Ertel said most physicians working under Interior Health are independent practitioners who manage themselves as private enterprises.
• Read more: Doctors fear more changes at SOGH
Ertel pointed out there are currently 22 physicians privileged to work in Oliver, but only 11 are available to provide emergency department coverage, which is creating staffing challenges.
“While it is important to recruit physicians to communities like Oliver, it is also important to recruit the right kind of physician; one who has an interest in the full scope of practice.”
Oliver physician Dr. Peter Entwistle could not be reached for comment. But Interior Health communications officer Susan Duncan said they will share further details when they are able, noting the priority is having those talks with physicians.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said he hoped that Interior Health would have expanded on the strategies that were identified.
Councillor Petra Veintimilla said that was the same thing she noted, but recommended sending Interior Health a letter thanking them and reiterating that 24-hour, seven-day- a-week access to the emergency department is important to the community, and that council looks forward to hearing about these strategies.
“You kind of want to believe that things are happening the way that they say they are happening, but without any sort of priorities attached, we don’t know,” she stated.
Veintimilla said Interior Health seems to be saying the same thing over and over, but local doctors keep saying they are unhappy. So she is “cautiously optimistic” that these priorities will change the course of action.
Councillor Dave Mattes suggested “nailing” Interior Health’s feet to the floor by asking when they expect to share and implement these strategies.