Interior Health chief executive Chris Mazurkewich met with reporters at the South Okanagan General Hospital Friday morning to talk rural health care in the region after meeting with local politicians and interest groups. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

IH CEO talks emergency care in South Okanagan

With more doctors in the area and talks underway, IH hopes to curb emergency department closures

As the health authority prepares to drop nearly $1 million along with local governments on emergency department renovations, Interior Health’s chief executive is looking to quell fears of a potential hospital closure in the South Okanagan.

Chris Mazurkewich was in Oliver Friday morning to meet with local interest groups and politicians to talk about health care in the rural South Okanagan region, where emergency department closures and challenging infrastructure have plagued the community in the past.

“There’s no plans to close this hospital. Why would we close it?” he said in a later meeting with reporters. “Why would we spend $1 million, or ask the provincial government and local governments to spend $1 million if we’re thinking of closing it.”

Related: SOGH renos just one formality from approval

Of those upgrades, Mazurkewich shone a light on some of the upgrades IH is looking at for the South Okanagan General Hospital, with a focus on the emergency department.

“One is the entrance into the emergency room will be changed and privacy within the emergency room will be done differently in order to enhance privacy,” he said. “The third element will be to enhance flow of the staff and physicians and patients within the emergency room.”

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes told the Western News late last month the entrance to the emergency room has been problematic with the line of sight, with nurses and doctors often unable to see who is coming in and leaving.

Related: Renos coming for Oliver emergency department

After Dr. Peter Entwistle resigned from the position of chief of staff last spring, Interior Health has been relying on the Penticton Regional Hospital’s top doctor Brad Raison to run the show in Oliver, but Mazurkewich said there haven’t been any plans to replace Entwistle for the rural hospital.

“We’ve had chiefs of staff cover more than one hospital at different points in time within IH, that seemed to work fairly well,” he said.

Mazurkewhich also touched on staffing issues, which had caused some problems for the small communities last summer, with not enough doctors around at times to staff the emergency department, leading to closures, or threats thereof.

Related: Osoyoos gets funds for health-care needs study

That had caused some backlash from local residents, particularly in Osoyoos, where a closed emergency department in Oliver would mean nearly an hour’s drive to the nearest emergency department in Penticton.

“In the last nine months, I don’t think there’s been any closures. I think four or five physicians came to the community, we’ve seen the emergency room open on a regular basis,” he said.

“Right now we’ve been working with the local physicians and the ministry of health on is there an alternative payment structure that would make it easier to retain and attract physicians to work in the emergency room, and we’re waiting to see what the results of that would bring.”

Related: Small group rallies for better health coverage in South Okanagan

Mazurkewich declined to offer what the talks have covered between IH, local doctors and the province, but said making for a more appealing and workable emergency department could help mitigate short-staffing.

“There’s looking at staffing levels of nursing within the hospital. We’ve put in security because that was a concern,” he said, adding doctor compensation was also a factor to consider.


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Piles of debris hauled from Summerland rock slide site

Material removed from site would more than fill an Olympic swimming pool

Crews continuing to clear rock north of Summerland

Site has had no movement for the past eight days

Alleged Okanagan sex offender arrested in P.E.I.

Offences occurred while Ivan Glen Winchester was living in Summerland between 2006 and 2010

Silt slide south of Summerland on Highway 97

Traffic was delayed approx. 30 minutes, not related to rock slide north of Summerland

Video: Loving Mugs Chili Cook-off returns to Penticton Art Gallery

The fundraiser saw 12 chilis competing for top honours.

Rescued Kelowna skier shares appreciation of COSAR team

A skier was found out of bounds near Big White by Central Okanagan Search and Rescue

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

Okanagan weather watch: Snow on the way

Flurries have been predicted for most of the Okanagan Valley today

B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Most Read