Oliver to pay for temporary doctor housing near South Okanagan General Hospital

The Town of Oliver says it will pitch in funds to house temporary doctors near South Okanagan General Hospital (SOGH) to address staffing issues plaguing the emergency department.

At Monday’s council meeting, it was revealed that council will support the request from the Interior Health Authority (IHA) for the provision of physician housing for a one-year period.

Mayor Martin Johansen said a fully contained suite has been located and will be funded equally by “all participating partners.”

The cost for the year will be $2,700 to $3,600 per partner.

In late February, the towns of Oliver and Osoyoos received a letter from medical providers in the South Okanagan requesting housing for locum doctors.

“With a dedicated residence close to SOGH, we could ensure easily accessible and comfortable housing for out-of-town physicians travelling to work in our communities,” said the letter penned by Dr. Kevin Hill, board director with the South Okanagan Division of Family Practice, and Carl Meadows, health services administrator with the IHA.

The emergency department at the Oliver hospital has faced sporadic closures in recent years due to staffing shortages.

Last November, three of the emergency room physicians who also run their own family practices took the rare step of pleading before Oliver town council for help.

“Unfortunately, we anticipate more issues going forward for potential closures, unfilled shifts, and we’re not finding solutions at the moment,” said Dr. Jacob Bellingan at the time.

The doctors told council that the problem with ER coverage is the high workload, lack of support and a gap in compensation between Oliver and surrounding hospitals like Penticton Regional Hospital.

Currently, doctors are compensated under a fee for service system, which means they are paid per patient.

The physicians told council they want to see the payment structure changed to the alternative payment plan, or APP, which means they’d be compensated per hour.

They said it would cost the province an additional $400,000 a year.

Doctor compensation is not mentioned in the letter issued by Hill and Meadows and was not addressed by town council.

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