'Stack and rack in the ER'

The B.C. Nurses Union is weighing in on the turmoil taking place at the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver.

Earlier this week, chief of staff Dr. Peter Entwistle announced his resignation in protest of a possible loss of six unfunded beds at the hospital. The beds are currently used as a sort of overflow for the other 18 fully funded beds at the facility. Interior Health denies that any decision has been made.

“I know from experience what’s going on there, and it’s really quite shocking,” Nurses Union President Gayle Duteil said, calling SOGH her “home hospital.”

Duteil was an acute care nurse at the hospital in Oliver prior to becoming the BCNU president, also acting as a patient care co-ordinator managing daily operations of nursing units there.

“I understand the plan, it's the same plan that other health authorities have, cutting the unfunded beds — it’s true they are unfunded — but the fact of the matter is, it just leads to a stack and rack situation in the emergency department,” she said.

The six unfunded beds at SOGH have been “routinely utilized for years now” according to Dutiel, who says the solution would be to staff the beds properly in the first place. Right now, she says nurses often work overtime caring for patients in the unfunded beds.

“The patients will not stop coming,” she said, adding that nurses will simply now be working their overtime hours in the emergency room rather than acute care.

“South Okanagan General Hospital is the lifeline of the community, and Dr. Entwistle is the glue that held that lifeline together, he’s dedicated many, many hours to that hospital,” Dutiel added.

Local MLA Linda Larson dismissed the issue, declaring there would be no impact of patients if the beds end up being removed. She will be challenged on that point during the upcoming provincial election, with Entwistle planning on running as an independent against her.

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