A Vernon, B.C., city councillor is speaking out about how challenging it can be to get a lab test done in the North Okanagan city.
Her concerns come nearly six months after Interior Health shut one of its two medical labs in Vernon due to a lack of staff.
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Councillor Teresa Durning says after discovering there was a nearly a two-month wait time for an appointment at Vernon’s hospital, she decided to stand in line at the private lab which accepts walk-ins.
“When I was out there for nearly two hours I was like, ‘This is insane,’ and I did ask some seniors if they wanted to go in front of me just because there is nowhere to sit, there is no cover,” said Durning.
“[I] waited outside for almost two hours to get a basic blood test done. In the lineup, there were many seniors and people who were vulnerable and that’s an issue. I think we need to do better regarding that. I think Interior Health and the province need to make sure that services are provided.”
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The city councillor is now trying to advocate for better lab testing services in Vernon.
It’s been nearly six months since Interior Health shuttered one of its two lab testing locations in Vernon indefinitely.
The health authority blamed the closure of its Sterling Centre lab on staffing shortages.
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Months later, that closure appears to be putting pressure on the three remaining labs.
Just like when Durning visited last week, on Monday there was a substantial lineup outside the Valley Medical Laboratories location that accepts walk-ins.
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“It is very frustrating,” said Zulfiqar Ahmed as he waited in line on the sidewalk outside the lab.
“I think a lot of the problems came when one of the walk-in clinics here closed. I used to go to the Sterling Centre…but that place is closed now. It has created backlogs here.”
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Sitting in line in a walker wearing a Canadian army veteran hat, Guy Legare expected he’d have to wait about an hour and a half.
“It makes me very cold today. That’s for darn sure,” Legare said.
“I would hope that the other clinics in town open up and we can get tested faster…It’s terrible right now.”
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Kathy Bond was in the lineup because she needed to visit a lab ahead of a doctor’s appointment later this week.
“I phoned for an appointment this morning and the earliest we can get in is May 2,” said Bond.
“We have to come and wait, because we have to have them done, but for people that have disabilities it is very inconvenient. The workers are doing the best they can. We just thank them that they are here.”
Just like when the Sterling Centre lab originally closed, Interior Health did not make anyone available for an interview.
“Interior Health has been actively recruiting lab workers over the past few years to stabilize lab services throughout the North Okanagan. These professionals are in high demand both provincially and nationally,” the health authority said in a statement.
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The health authority points out that walk-in lab services are still available at the city’s hospital.
There is no word on when the Sterling Centre lab might reopen.
The other Vernon lab testing location operated by Valley Medical Laboratories is by appointment only.
The only booking service currently shows no appointment availability in the next three weeks.
The laboratory services at the Lumby Health Centre, about 20 minutes from Vernon, were also briefly suspended last fall but have since resumed.
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