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Kaslo residents asking for six months extension to find solutions to reduction in ER hours
A group of concerned Kaslo citizens have asked Interior Health Authority (IHA)and CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny to give them six months to come up with a plan to save some of their emergency room hours at the Victorian Community Health Centre.
Last week the IHA announced they would be reducing the ER hours at the centre from 24 hours a day, seven days a week to Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The ER, which serves 2,500 people in Kaslo and the surrounding areas, will begin their new hours as of November 1, 2012.
A seven-member negotiating team has been established who want to work with IHA to find a way to keep the emergency room open more than 40 hours a week. But they need more time than the six weeks they have between now and when the new service plan begins.
"(The IHA) is acting in a very disrespectful way towards our community," said Kalso mayor Greg Lay.
"They have not consulted with us, they have not been reasonable with us in terms of communicating their proposed changes. We are trying to be diplomatic and we are trying to keep the lines of communication open . .. We have ideas which may help their problem."
"It is important to have a team because there was such a lack of community consultation when they made this decision," said Maggie Winters, a member of the negotiating team who has volunteered to operate as the point person with IHA.
"What we want to develop a reasonable and realistic plan and develop a relationship with IHA that is positive."
During the meeting last week, more than 400 North Kootenay Lake residents showed up in Kaslo to hear what IHA had to say and to express their views. IHA hosted the meeting not as a consultation, but as an information meeting about their service plan for the health center.
IHA is having to reduce the emergency room hours due to physician and nursing shortages.
"That meeting was very important because people needed to express their emotions, but in going forward we need to work with facts and reality," said Winters.
The negotation team chose to ask Halpenny via email for a six month extension because it is a reasonable timeline in which to explore their options, while not inconviencing IHA in terms of staffing, said Winters.
She fears loosing 80 per cent of their emergency room time will only stress out other facilities in the region.
"The change will be far reaching and the effects will even be felt in Nelson," said Winters.
"With an 80 per cent cut in ER time will mean all those people will be going to Nelson."
She also said that less health services may have a long term affect on tourism because tourists, and in this region many of those tend to be adventure-seeking, will decide not to visit knowing there won't be any medical services available should they need them.
The Nelson Daily contacted IHA communications but has yet to receive a response. The IHA has also not responded to the Kaslo negotiating committee.