May 17, 2022

Interior Health needs to do more to address a “health-care system in crisis,” says a Vernon city councillor.

Teresa Durning says services aren’t being met for residents of Vernon.

The councillor was shocked by her experience when she needed to get some bloodwork done.

Durning waited in line outdoors for two hours with many others, including several seniors, for the 10-minute procedure at Valley Medical Laboratories on Wednesday.

The Railway Plaza location is a walk-in clinic.

Valley Medical also operates a lab in downtown Vernon where people can get blood work done. For the downtown lab, an appointment is required, but a check of its website reveals the earliest appointment isn’t until April 29. Appointments can only be booked three weeks in advance

People can also register for bloodwork at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, but there is also a lengthy waiting list.

“I don’t know what’s wrong, but we are in trouble. We are in a crisis, no doubt about it,” says Durning, who praised frontline health workers for all they do. “The workers were amazing once we were in there, the problem is getting the service.

“I can speak from a municipal level that our seniors deserve better, our people who are ill deserve better. They shouldn’t be standing out in the weather.”

At very least, Durning says some sort of seating and cover from the elements should be provided for the long wait.

“There does need to be an expectation from the service provider to accommodate people until they can get them in. Standing out in the weather should not be an option,” said Durning, adding people are also lining up at 6:30 a.m. to get bloodwork done at VJH.

“It’s a symptom of something bigger, but from a municipal perspective, for people who are fragile in our community, we need to do better. I think health care is in crisis, I know that.”

Staffing issues forced the closure of the Valley Medical Lab in Lumby. The lab in the Sterling Centre has also closed, putting more a strain on existing facilities.

Durning pointed out getting bloodwork done before COVID was a lot faster than it is now.

“So what happened there?” she asks.

In an email, Interior Health says it has “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.”

Patients are encouraged to make appointments online or by calling the lab call centre at 1-877-740-7747. The call centre is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.

“Anyone requiring walk-in lab service is asked to visit the Polson Tower Outpatient Lab located at Vernon Jubilee Hospital. Alternatively, patients can access service from Valley Medical Laboratories, which has two locations in Vernon.”

Interior Health did not comment on any impact the pandemic or mandates have had on wait times.

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