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‘Five-alarm fire’: Falcon laments staff shortage at Vernon hospital

The BC United leader was asked about the shortage of OBGYN specialists at Vernon Jubilee Hospital
Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (Morning Star file photo)

BC United leader Kevin Falcon compared the health care system in rural B.C. to a “five-alarm fire” when asked about staffing challenges at Vernon Jubilee Hospital that may force expectant mothers to be transferred to other hospitals in the area to deliver or receive care.

Interior Health confirmed Tuesday that the Vernon hospital is experiencing shortages of obstetrician and gynecologist (OBGYN) specialists. As a result, “a small number of cases required us to direct families to alternate locations,” said Dr. Douglas Smith, vice president of medicine for Interior Health.

Asked about the situation in the Legislature Wednesday, Falcon said Vernon’s situation is “no different than Surrey Memorial, or the Caribou Memorial Hospital, hospitals right across the province that are struggling with the same challenge.”

Falcon said the NDP government is “not providing the alignment between resources and making sure they’ve got the employees that they need to be able to run a system efficiently and effectively.”

He’s heard from health care workers that they don’t feel listened to, “and that’s something that has to change because our system is nothing without the great people in our system.”

While the health care system is overloaded in the Lower Mainland, Falcon said the situation in rural B.C. is “multitudes worse.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix, asked about the situation at Vernon Jubilee, said the government is working on the maternity issue “everywhere.”

“I think what you’ve seen a little bit in the Okanagan is a significant increase in demand, which is interesting,” Dix said.

Dix said he’d met in person with doctors, nurses and other health care workers who deal with maternity issues in both Vernon and Kelowna.

“Whenever there are periods when people may have to go somewhere else — and this happens in other places — we’re working hard to resolve that,” he said.

“I’m concerned for families, of course; nobody wants that circumstance to happen, and we’re taking actions to support the community there to see that they get back to Jubilee as soon as possible.”

Dix said the government is working hard to resolve staff shortages at hospitals throughout B.C. He said the government has seen “enormous success” with its new payment model for family doctors that offers an alternative to the free-for-service system, which doctors have long pointed to as one of the primary causes of the province’s doctor shortage.

On Tuesday, Smith said Interior Health is working with the Ministry of Health on long-term solutions to boost staffing levels in specialty areas such as OBGYN.

READ MORE: Vernon hospital staff shortages may force babies to be delivered elsewhere

READ MORE: Vernon’s last walk-in doctor clinic closing

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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