Interior Health president Susan Brown said the temporary service changes at the Barriere and District Health Centre won’t have an effect on access to primary care physicians, although laboratory services will be reduced to one day per week.
The temporary changes come as daily increases in sick calls from health care workers put a strain on an already stressed workforce, she said.
“When we see a reduction in those sick calls, it will allow us to re-evaluate,” Brown said. “We’re re-evaluating daily and the minute that it’s safe to stand up services again, we will do that.”
After the health authority announced the changes on Tuesday, Jan. 18, many were confused about what departments would be closed at the Barriere clinic. By Thursday, Jan. 20, IH sent out another press release further clarifying the changes.
The doors are still open for primary care, the press release noted, but the emergency department is closed as of noon Thursday, Jan. 20. This is so the nurse can assist in other communities, such as Clearwater, where the ER has had numerous and sporadic closures over the past few months.
The laboratory will move to one day per week, starting Monday, Jan. 24, in an attempt to ease staffing shortages that have been felt not only in Barriere but communities across the interior, Brown added. COVID-19 testing and immunization clinics are continuing.
In-patient beds at the Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater have also been closed to help make the emergency and long-term care departments “a reliable, stable service.”
Many residents raised concerns about the changes and how they would affect services in the Barriere area, which is 40 minutes both north and south from a hospital. But Brown noted there shouldn’t be much of a change as the clinic is still open for appointments. Residents are urged to call 911 in the event of an emergency or visit the Dr. Memorial Helmcken Hospital in Clearwater or Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
“We’re trying to minimize any disruption to Barriere, so the (general practitioners) are still there, we’re going to do lab collection once a week,” said Brown. “But really (it’s to) free up use of the nurse there to help us out.”