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City invites IHA spokesperson to public meeting to discuss ER closure

February 10th, 2012

By Kyra Hoggan, Castlegar Source

The City of Castlegar is asking Interior Health Authority (IHA) spokesperson Diane Gagnon to attend the public portion of city council’s next meeting, to discuss the unscheduled closure of Castlegar’s emergency ward last Saturday.

This, after city officials received a letter of apology for the poor communication before, and during, the closure.

“Normally, a public service announcement is issued, advising the community of the temporary closure with clear alternatives for people who require care. This did not happen in this case, and for that Interior Health sincerely apologizes,” Gagnon said.

Several council members, however, made it very clear at their regular meeting Monday evening, that they felt an apology would be inadequate.

“The same thing happened to us with the Ultrasound machine (see ),” said councillor Kevin Chernoff.

“They told us they were going to have a better dialogue with us, and it didn’t happen. An apology isn’t enough for me this time.”

Councillor Sue Heaton said she wants to see a hard-copy contingency plan to ensure there won’t be a repeat of Saturday’s closure, and councillor Den McIntosh called the situation “outrageous”.

“Their communication protocol was ridiculous – non-existent. For emergency responders to find out (about the closure) on Facebook is outrageous,” she said, adding that the person responsible for the mistake should be taken to task, and suspended if not outright fired.

McIntosh also suggested a possible ulterior motive to the closure.

“This is just one more thing to prevent people from using it (the emergency ward),” she said.

“The more that this type of thing happens, the fewer patients they’ll have, which will justify them shutting us down altogether. They’re treating us like second-class citizens.”

Even members of the public expressed distress at Saturday’s closure.

Castlegar resident Rutger Klaus called it, “appalling” and “unacceptable”, while resident Meagan Salekin said, “I think it’s really reprehensible that (IHA spokesperson Diane Gagnon) can speak to Global TV and not to the people impacted,” (this, in reference to city CAO John Malcolm’s calls to IHA, which he said had not been returned by the time the council meeting began).

At the time of this posting, IHA was unable to confirm whether Gagnon will attend the public meeting.

Gagnon did, however, tell The Source Monday that Saturday’s happenings will automatically trigger an internal review to determine, “whether there’s anything we could or should be doing better”.

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