Vernon residents seeking medical lab work have one less option to meet their needs.
The Interior Health lab in the Sterling Building was closed on Tuesday.
“As of Oct. 26, the Sterling Centre outpatient lab is temporarily closed and anyone requiring walk-in lab service is asked to visit the Polson Tower outpatient lab located at Vernon Jubilee Hospital,” IH explained in an email when asked about the closure.
Patients are encouraged to make appointments online at www.labonlinebooking.ca or by calling the lab call centre at 1-877-740-7747. The call centre is open 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Castanet registered for a lab appointment, and the first available slot as of Wednesday afternoon was Dec. 13.
IH officials say the closing of the Sterling laboratory is not related to the province's vaccination mandate, which has seen an exodus of unvaccinated health-care workers this week.
“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 and, unfortunately on occasion, Interior Health has needed to adjust and make temporary changes to lab services throughout the region,” the health authority said.
Lumby is also temporarily losing its lab.
Mayor Kevin Acton confirmed the lab will be closing as of Nov. 2.
Acton was told the “suspension of services” is due to a lack of staff. He said losing the village's only such facility puts residents in tough position.
“We have fought really hard to keep the lab here,” Acton said, adding local groups have put in a lot of work to keep the much-needed facility in the community.
“It is incredibly tough for some people to make it in to Vernon,” Acton said, adding many seniors rely on the lab, and the public transit system is not adequate to get them to and from Vernon.
“It's going to put us in a position of trying to figure out a way to provide services for a vulnerable population.”
IH could not comment on the Lumby lab closure, as it is run by Valley Medical Laboratories, which continues to operate two locations in Vernon.
Valley Medical operates 14 labs across the Okanagan. Castanet has reached out to Valley Medical for comment.