December 3, 2023

Due to ongoing staff shortages, the laboratory at the South Similkameen Health Centre is closing down half of its usual schedule.

As some residents face difficulties booking appointments, including a lack of appointments, a solution won’t be ready before the new year. Instead, they are being told to look to labs elsewhere in the South Okanagan.

According to Interior Health, as a result of the staffing shortage for laboratory professionals, adjustments had to be made to services in some communities, including Keremeos. These changes do not affect the rest of the South Similkameen Health Centre’s operations.

In Keremeos, the health centre’s lab hours have been cut down to every other Wednesday in December and into January, with it being open from 7:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 21, Jan. 4 and so on.

Interior Health has further limited the lab’s services for patients who have been designated on their requisition as urgent or vulnerable by their physician, and/or patients requiring an INR, which tests how long it takes for someone’s blood to clot.

According to Joanne Isber, program director for IH Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, they are anticipating new hiring practices to make the lab available fully every Wednesday by the end of February.

“We are making these changes to ensure our most vulnerable and urgent patients are able to access lab collection services in Keremeos and to ensure lab service needs for Penticton Regional Hospital are met,” said Isber in an emailed statement. “We recognize this change means people may be required to travel to nearby communities for appointments.”

Interior Health is directing people who need labwork instead to either the laboratory outpatient collections at the Penticton Regional Hospital and the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver, or to the Valley Medical Laboratory in Penticton and Osoyoos.

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