By on June 29, 2011

OSOYOOS TIMES-June 29, 2011

By Karissa Gall – Osoyoos Times

With their application to the province to switch from a fee-for-service to a salary method of payment declined, physicians working in the emergency ward at Oliver’s South Okanagan General Hospital have created a contingency plan for the provision of emergency services this summer.
According to Dr. Steven Evans, president of the hospital’s medical staff, due to difficulties attracting and retaining doctors under the fee-for-service payment system, the emergency room is understaffed and there will be no doctor working in the ward on certain Tuesdays and Thursdays in August and September.
Evans said that on August 2, 16, 18, 25 and 30 and Sept. 1, no doctor will be working in the emergency ward between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
He said that if someone with an emergency condition “who may be at risk of dying” comes into the emergency room, a doctor will be called in to provide treatment.
However, he said, those with non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries will be triaged by a nurse and then taken by ambulance to Penticton or referred to their local family doctor.
All night shifts will be covered as usual.
Evans said the contingency plan has been approved by local administrators from Interior Health and local medical staff at the hospital.
He said the hospital’s medical staff are waiting for the province and the BC Medical Association (BCMA) to approve some short-term funding to help alleviate doctor-shortage problems at the hospital, but that “it’s not of the amount that would resolve some difficulties.”
A spokesman for the provincial Health Ministry said the reason the request from local doctors for a change in the payment scheme for emergency room physicians was turned down is because the province is working with the BCMA on a larger plan to address the needs of doctors and hospitals in rural communities.
“As part of our last agreement with the BCMA, we have committed $20 million to expand access to physician services in rural and remote communities, with a particular emphasis on emergency care,” Ryan Jabs said in an email. “We are currently working with the BCMA on a strategy to find a provincial solution that will work for the Emergency Department at South Okanagan General Hospital and other rural community hospitals across the province.”
He added that the province hopes to “find a solution that meets the needs of Osoyoos and Oliver, as well as to ensure all rural communities are attractive to physicians looking for work in British Columbia.”

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