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First responders learn about Castlegar emergency ward closure on Facebook

Photo by Mike O'Connor

Tonight’s city council meeting will almost certainly see disgruntled residents and representatives, after Castlegar’s emergency ward was closed without notice Saturday.

People - even first responders - seeking medical care were met, at the hospital doors, with a sign that read, “Emerg dept closed for today (Sat Feb 4) Please head to Trail or Nelson Emerg Dept” (sic).

Castlegar fire chief Gerry Rempel, whose firefighters serve also as medical first responders in the community, said he was not notified of the closure.

"I found out about it on Facebook," he said.

M&M Meat Shop owner David Grantham was in Grand Forks at a hockey game, while his 10-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, stayed with a friend in Castlegar.

When Mackenzie appeared to be suffering from an eye infection, her friend’s parents took her to the local emergency ward – only to find the doors locked and a note on the door advising them to head to Trail or Nelson (the closer of the two, Trail, is about 25 minutes away).

“I’m shocked and dismayed, especially when there’s not even a walk-in clinic in Castlegar,” said Grantham, adding his daughter appears to have recovered from her eye infection.  “Who makes these unilateral decisions?  It’s pretty horrifying.”

To add insult to injury, he said, IHA used none of the vehicles at their disposal to warn the public of the closure, citing opportunities like the media, social applications like Facebook, and community partners like City Hall, all of whom would have helped spread the word, but none of whom (to the best of his knowledge) were contacted.

“Never, in the five years I’ve run my store here, have I had to close my doors due to employee illness, and never, in my 25 years in retail, have I ever seen or heard of that happening,” he said. “(Unlike IHA), I can’t pull employees from other areas like Trail or Nelson, either. So if a retail store can manage to never close because of illness, how is it possible that this can happen with an essential service like a hospital?”

Castlegar city councilor and co-chair of the public safety committee Kevin Chernoff said he’s “appalled”, both by the closure and the way it was managed.

“We (city council) found out the same way everyone did, by reading about it on social media. We weren’t even notified,” he said. “To my knowledge, they didn’t tell anyone at all.

“I feel like we’re being treated like second-class citizens. This would never have happened in Kelowna or Vancouver,” he added.

He said this, barely a month after Castlegar was left without ambulance services over the holidays, is proof positive that it’s time for Castlegarians to really pressure the provincial government when it comes to essential services in our area.

“This should never happen again.”

The Source has been promised a reply from IHA regarding the incident, and has contacted BC Ambulance Service to find out if they were even aware of the closure. Keep checking back for updates.