Open Letter to the Citizens of Ashcroft and Area, Re: Health Care in Ashcroft
Once again I would like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on health care in Ashcroft and in addition settle some of the rumours that seem to be going around.
Firstly, Council had a presentation by Jennifer Thur and Bryan Redford from Interior Health. These individuals attended the Committee of the Whole meeting on May 28 and provided updates and information on a number of items. We value these visits as they provide an opportunity to ask questions and strengthen our working relationship.
One of the most talked about issues at the moment is the fact that the Emergency Room schedule is no longer being published in the paper. There are a number of reasons for this but mainly the feedback indicated that many people were not seeing the ad or keeping a copy of it. Also, many times the ad would be outdated by the time it was printed. The public can always call 254-453-2211 and select Option 7 to determine if the ER is open and access the most current schedule. This schedule is also available on the Interior Health website and the Village’s website. In the case of a life threatening emergency please call 9-1-1, BC Ambulance will respond and will be aware of the nearest available ER.
Many of you have likely heard that Dr. Khan will be leaving Ashcroft by the end of the year however, he has indicated that he may come back as a locum from time to time. Dr. Kitshoff has been working tirelessly recruiting two doctors from South Africa. These doctors have had provisional offers of employment and IH is now waiting for all of the paper work to be completed. As the documentation can be lengthy we have not been able to determine arrival dates but will keep everyone informed. In the interim IH is ramping up their efforts to obtain maximum locum coverage.
The REEF program continues to generate a lot of discussion. I would like to clarify that it is not the intention to permanently reduce the hours of operation for the ER but to take advantage of the additional funding offered under the REEF program the posted ER hours must be met. It is unreasonable to submit a REEF application stating that the ER will be open 24/7 when the doctors know that they will not be able to provide that level of service. Locums are recruited whenever possible however as with many other professions there are more available opportunities than there are people to fill them and we will have times when there are no locums available. Once again I would like to stress that doctors are private businessmen and they are within their rights to establish their hours of work. IH cannot order them to work weekends or afterhours to provide ER coverage. While it does not replace having an ER open, the air transport team and helicopter have been an invaluable tool and have been used many times. Council has written to IH advising that we have concerns regarding the helicopter landing in the parking lot and have request-ed that the development of a proper helipad be brought forward as a high priority.
Dr. Bolan (the podiatrist) and other allied health professionals were asked to move their practices from the health care site and this move was an Interior Health decision for a number of reasons but mainly so that all IH sites were operating under the same guidelines. A new policy is being drafted and once it is in place these services may be reinstated, only time will tell. The local IH staff were not pleased that these changes had to take place but unfortunately they did not have the authority to override the decision.
IH has confirmed that the imaging/xray and lab departments are stable and there are no plans to change these services. Also the convalescent beds are still available and again there are no plans to alter this service.
Council and I continue to meet with IH representatives on a regular basis and while the situation is not ideal our concerns are being heard. By working together we can nurture a positive climate so that doctors will continue to show an interest in coming to Ashcroft. Jennifer Thur is on site on a regular basis and if anyone has any questions or wishes to have issues clarified she is open to meeting with residents. You may make an appointment to see her by calling her assistant, Tricia Hohn-Roberts at 250-453-1903 or via email at Tricia.Hohn@interiorhealth.ca
I hope that this has supplied some factual information for all of you and that you realize that health care in Ashcroft continues to be one of our major concerns. Have a wonderful summer.