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Penticton  

Staffing ER for election time?

The South Okanagan General Hospital's former top doctor is sounding the alarm about doctors who he says are being paid an extra $1,000 to come in from out of town to keep the hospital's emergency room open during the election period.

Dr. Peter Entwistle, who stepped down as SOGH's chief of staff last month to protest a potential removal of physical beds, says the plan to bring in doctors from the outside with extra pay doesn't extend beyond May. That, he says, is too coincidental with the current election and health care as a major issue in the Boundary-Similkameen riding.

"If this is a coherent plan to properly pay the emergency positions for Interior Health to take responsibility for staffing the emergency departments and maintaining 24-hour, seven-day-a-week cover, then I think we're all supportive of that," Entwistle said. "It's just that Interior Health hasn't done that for the past five years up until it became an election issue, and they're only doing it briefly for the election period."

Entwistle says he's heard from a "different sources" that Interior Health is shelling out an extra $1,000 or so to convince doctors to come in from out of town to work at the hospital.

That bonus is because, according to Entwistle, Oliver's ER pays less than others in the area. That would mean a pay cut for any doctor working in the SOGH ER. To even things out for doctors coming from out of town, Interior Health is reportedly providing that bonus.

But until recently, Entwistle says Interior Health has threatened to close down the emergency department if doctors didn't step up to fill scheduling gaps. That's a threat he says was acted on last year, when the ER was closed for a couple of nights.

"I believe on those nights, actually, physicians came and stayed at the hospital just in case something went wrong," he said. "It's disrespectful to doctors who have worked hard for the past few years to maintain the service," Entwistle added on the sudden about-face.

"This year, it's not been possible to provide cover, and the only difference is that, now it's in the election period, suddenly Interior Health has found the money. But six weeks ago when I did a 24-hour shift and was promised help, but it didn't come, they couldn't find money to get anybody else."

After the current plan to staff the ER runs its course in May, Entwistle says Interior Health claims it will put in place a new plan, but no details of that plan have surfaced, yet.

Castanet reached out to Interior Health for comment, but the health authority has said it won't comment on the matter at this time.



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Less polished, more civil

The candidates were not as polished as their party leaders, but considerably more civilized during an all candidates forum for Penticton nominees held at the Lakeside Resort on Thursday night.

Incumbent B.C. Liberal Dan Ashton, Penticton city councillor and B.C. NDP candidate Tarik Sayeed and B.C. Green Party candidate Connie Sahlmark took a wide range of questions from a panel in front of more than 300 voters.

Ashton was on the defensive for most of the night, with Sayeed attacking the B.C. Liberal government for balancing the budget at the expense of social services. With the exception of campaign donations, Sahlmark also pointed most of her guns in Ashton’s direction.

“I’m sorry Dan, it’s been 16 years since the 90s,” she said to large applause, after Ashton attacked the NDP for not creating doctor education spaces while they were in government.

When asked if he would reimburse the City of Penticton for the cost of a byelection (Ashton did in 2013) should he win on May 9, Sayeed told the audience he is still considering holding seats in both council chambers and the legislature.

“I can tell you Tarik, and I say this with the utmost respect, you can never be an MLA and a councillor at the same time,” Ashton said as the audience clapped.

Ashton openly admitted his government mishandled the potential closure of West Bench and Trout Creek Elementary – “to be frank, I was wrong” – going on to state the whole province is dealing with similar challenges as less kids enter the school system.

Ashton referred to the audience, which was mostly grey, as indication that demographics in the region and province are changing.

After Ashton and Sayeed exchanged party rhetoric about campaign donations, Sahlmark hit them both, touting that the Green Party has declined all donations from both corporations and unions.

“Ladies, if a guy is buying you drinks all night, are there expectations?” she said to laughter and cheers.

She was later asked to clarify the response, and was asked about misogyny in politics. NDP operatives online pounced on the metaphor, accusing Sahlmark of perpetuating rape culture, and calling on her to apologize. 

The Green Party candidate was on the receiving end of perhaps the hardest question of the night; asked about the possibility of vote splitting, “unless Mr. Ashton or Mr. Sayeed get caught cutting down trees together to Skaha Lake Park, chances are one of them is going to win,” remarked Herald reporter Joe Fries. 

Sahlmark said it was “presumptuous” to state she had no chance of winning, which prompted the crowd to cheer, adding that “you should be able to vote for your values.”

Sayeed took the chance to pitch his party’s promise to bring in proportional representation, stating that if the NDP forms government, other parties will have a greater chance of rising to the top in the following election.

When asked about the rising property crime rate in the city, Sayeed said the NDP has committed to ramping up funding to a judicial system that he called starved.

Ashton took a different stance, and stated that “the judicial system needs to step up a little bit,” giving his approval to a small set of protestors outside the courthouse this week calling for stiffer sentences of prolific offenders.

Sahlmark called crime a product of other underlying issues, saying it takes about eight days to access a recovery bed in B.C. right now.

The candidates also sparred on MSP premiums, affordable housing, and the Skaha Lake Park fiasco (which they all disavowed).

For more on the local candidates, watch Castanet for one-on-one video interviews over the next week. The first, with the Green candidate, is already up.

The election is May 9.



Bringing families together

Families from all walks of life gathered at Penticton's Ooknakane Friendship Centre, Thursday night to share food, make friends and learn.

There was a speaker for the adults, arts and crafts for children and good food for everyone.

"Some of the reasons we have these dinners is for foster and biological families to come together and to provide cultural opportunities," said Courtney Olsen, foster parent and out of care coordinator for the centre.

The nights are typically held the last Thursday of the month, with different themes each time.

On Thursday the focus was on kids in care and mental health, with Teresa Haberstock, the aboriginal child and youth mental health clinician, talking to the crowd on the subject.

Haberstock addressed kids coming into care with of emotions and a high level of anxiety.

"Sometimes when we have different kids coming and going, the biggest thing is self-regulating, self-calming," she said. "With another piece to look at being structure, being able to build healthy habits."

She suggested finding a place where children can find calm and practicing self-regulating through breathing and clenching and releasing, even the stomping game.

Bear hugs for physical connection and screaming to move emotions out also help.

More anxiety is often seen in kids at the pre-teen and teen level, with kids acting out, with Haberstock again suggesting self-regulating to help them calm down.

Dinner at the event was provided by the Okanagan Nation Alliance. The evening ended with a hoop dance performed by AJ Akachuk.

His father shared information on his son's desire to be a hoop dancer from a young age and the importance of allowing children to pursue their passions.

The Ooknakane Friendship Centre at 146 Ellis Street provides a wide-range of programming to the community.



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Awards gala tickets on sale

Tickets are on sale for the 2017 Western Canada Awards Gala, scheduled for May 5 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

The gala includes dinner and the tournament's awards ceremony. The Vees are excited to welcome special guests, former NHL players, Andy Moog and Brendan Morrison, and current Vancouver Canucks defenceman, Troy Stecher, for an alumni discussion panel.

“The Awards Gala is one of the biggest events of the Western Canada Cup schedule," said David Michaud, tournament chair. "It will be a great celebration of not only the hockey during the week, but a celebration of hockey in Penticton.

“We’re thrilled that Brendan Morrison, Andy Moog and Troy Stecher are taking time out of their busy schedules to share some stories and experiences with the players and these in attendance.”

Tickets are $75 per person. The gala begins at 5 p.m. with a cocktail hour, dinner at 6 p.m. and awards at 7 p.m.

A limited number of $10 tickets will be available for fans who wish to watch the awards ceremony and alumni panel discussion only.

The Western Canada Cup opens Saturday at 2 p.m. when the Chilliwack Chiefs play the Brooks Bandits. The Vees play later that night at 7 p.m. against the Battleford North Stars.



Trial delayed for final time?

A man has been granted an adjournment in his assault causing bodily harm trial to bring in a new lawyer, but that adjournment comes with a stern warning – the next trial will go ahead with or without a lawyer.

Charles Houle is charged with assault causing bodily harm against Ronald Street in Bridesville on Aug. 31, 2015, along with Johnathan Jacob Taylor-Miller, who pleaded guilty to charges over the incident and was sentenced to seven months of house arrest in October last year.

Houle, on the other hand, had originally entered a guilty plea, but after he and his lawyer Don Skogstad parted ways last summer, Houle's plea was pulled. Houle was also found to be guilty two weeks ago of a separate assault, also on Street in Bridesville. That assault happened on Dec. 2, 2014.

Following that trial, Houle says he's going to need legal help to contest the more recent assault charges before him.

"Due to the seriousness of these charges before me, I am unable to handle these charges for a trial in a proper manner, so I require legal representation," he said, adding that he has retained a lawyer.

If Houle hadn't brought up his need for a lawyer, Judge Meg Shaw told him she would have, adding that assault causing bodily harm and the other charges before Houle are "extremely serious."

At issue, however, was a recently introduced interpretation of the rules for how long a wait before charges go to trial, which is commonly believed to place the limit at 18 months for provincial matters, and 30 months for federal matters.

Putting off the trial would likely push the trial date past that time, but Houle told Shaw he was willing to waive his right to a timely trial to gain a lawyer.

Shaw told Houle he would get his adjournment, but made it clear that come the next trial date, he would undergo a trial "with or without counsel."



Community garden growing

Incredible Edible Penticton is expanding its garden space and looking for people in the community to help out.

Work groups are planned starting in May to make improvements to the garden on Hastings Avenue.

"There are a number of different reasons to get involved," said Chandra Wong. "You have access to fresh-grown organic produce, vegetables, herbs and fruit, so you can supplement meals and it's about meeting people in your community and doing something with them."

The movement to encourage people to grow more food for themselves and the community at large started in the summer of 2014, thanks to the efforts of avid gardener Hilma LaBelle and different organizations.

LaBelle started researching Incredible Edible when a friend sent information about the original group in Todmorden, England.

It started with the garden on Hastings Avenue and moved to other areas in the city.

The expansion now taking place is thanks to a grant they received from the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen in 2016.

The funding has been used to put a fence around the garden to keep the wildlife out. They also plan to increase the number of raised beds and make other general improvements around the garden.

The community is invited to help out with the garden starting on Sunday and Wednesday mornings in May.

More information on Incredible Edible Penticton is available on their Facebook page.



Car flips onto its side

A car has flipped onto its side at the intersection of Camrose Street and Warren Avenue, though it's not clear if any major injuries were suffered.

It's also not clear how the crash occurred, but skid marks are clearly visible on the pavement leading toward the crashed car. Firefighters were on scene directing traffic late Thursday afternoon as a tow truck arrived.

Castanet will update more information as it becomes available.



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