His Worship Ron Hovanes Town of Oliver
Her Worship Sue McKortoff Town of Osoyoos
Dear Mayor Hovanes and Mayor McKortoff:
Thank you for your joint April 22nd letter regarding South Okanagan General Hospital (SOGH) services. I would like to take this opportunity to provide information on our services and assure you of our commitment to the hospital in Oliver. As with all health authorities in B.C., Interior Health is mandated by the Province to provide a core set of services throughout our region, and in an efficient and fiscally responsible manner. In fulfilling this mandate, IH regularly updates hospital acute care bed plans to reflect changes in utilization and projections. We set a target of 95% occupancy of our 18 funded acute care beds at SOGH. This is consistent with similar IH hospitals. The 95% target allows SOGH to manage fluctuations that occur over the course of a year – for example, an increase in summer population and winter influenza impacts.
As Carl Meadows shared in his April 10th presentation to Oliver Council, SOGH had an occupancy rate of approximately 93% for the last fiscal year based on its 18 funded beds. This is lower than previous years, and a testament to the positive work occurring to keep people healthy and independent, avoiding unnecessary hospitalization. Carl also noted during the meeting that hospital and physician leadership continue to discuss to most effectively use of any beds in a fiscally responsible manner in light of historical occupancy rates as well as projections for the future. No decisions have been made.
I need to clarify a point in your letter.
While IH is responsible to hire clinical and non-clinical staff to provide services through its sites and programs, such as nurses or support staff, IH does not hire physicians – either to work in primary care clinics in the community or to work at SOGH. Physicians in British Columbia are independent practitioners paid primarily by the Ministry of Health, not IH.
Physicians can apply to provide services in IH hospitals, including SOGH, through a health authority privileging process to ensure that physician provided services meet quality and service expectations. We work closely with physicians in the community to have them provide services in our hospitals, whether it is for admitted patients or emergency services, but ultimately it is up to the physicians themselves to determine if they wish to provide services in our hospitals. In addition, we will support physicians in the recruitment of physicians.
Nine of the 18 physicians currently with privileges to provide services at SOGH have chosen to provide service in the Emergency Department. We anticipate a further six physicians will locate to the South Okanagan by the fall with some providing service to SOGH, including the Emergency Department. These additional physicians should further stabilize the physician resources required to provide consistent coverage for emergency services. IH also reviews staffing levels on a regular basis. There are annual processes in IH to review staffing levels for all clinical and non-clinical roles, and between IH and the BC Nurses Union to review staffing levels for nurses. Be assured that reviews do take place, and staffing level adjustments occur. In the past two years, IH added 4 new registered nurse positions to SOGH and other staff were added to reduce the number of non-nursing tasks undertaken by registered nurses. As future reviews identify required changes they will be considered within our annual processes.
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your joint letter. Should you require additional clarification please do not hesitate to contact my office.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Interior Health Authority