South Okanagan General Hospital emergency room closed again

For the third time in a week, Interior Health is warning of a “temporary service interruption” at South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver.

“Limited physician availability” will close the hospital’s emergency department – which is normally open 24 hours a day – from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, according to the health authority.

Patients seeking emergency services are being directed to Penticton Regional Hospital – about 40 minutes away – during the closure.

It’s the third time a lack of staff has closed the emergency room at SOGH in the last week.

The department was also closed overnight last Saturday into Sunday morning, and it closed again overnight on Wednesday into Thursday.

Limited physician availability was the reason cited on those occasions as well.

In recent weeks, the provincial government has touted its efforts to hire new health care workers, with Health Minister Adrian Dix claiming Tuesday that more than 5,200 “net new” nurses had been hired since January, along with 524 new international medical graduates that have registered and begun working in B.C.

On the ground, however, staffing clearly remains a challenge. South Okanagan General Hospital was one of at least three facilities in Interior Health to close due to lack of staff over the Thanksgiving long weekend, and health-care facilities continue to see reduced hours and unexpected closures in other health authorities, as well. 

In Merritt, Mayor Michael Goetz has threatened to withhold health-care payments to the province over repeated closures of the emergency department at Nicola Valley Hospital, and is urging other mayors to do the same. 

Although Goetz says he has the ear of the health minister and other provincial officials, he told CTV News this week the province has not provided a plan he is confident will address the issue with the urgency it requires.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to pay for something that they never got,” Goetz said, estimating the number of closures this calendar year will hit at least 20 and the amount of money he plans to hold back will be significant.

“It’s going to be a fairly, fairly big amount, I’m sure. And I’m sure I’ll be told I can’t do it.”

During this Saturday’s closure in Oliver, other inpatient services will continue as normal, according to Interior Health.

“People in the community who need life-threatening emergency care (i.e., chest pains, difficulty breathing, severe bleeding) should always call 911 for transport to the nearest available and appropriate facility,” the health authority said in a statement Friday. 


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