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Kootenay East MLA frustrated with Elkford health care gaps

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka is frustrated by a lack of progress as the temporary closure of the Elkford Health Centre’s emergency department approaches the two-and-a-half-year mark.

The ‘temporary’ closure of Elkford’s Emergency Department began on Sept. 29, 2021.

“We’re very upset that the needs of the folks in the Elk Valley, primarily Elkford, aren’t being recognized at all,” said Shypitka.

Interior Health cited staffing issues as the cause of the closure.

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“Staffing shortages are the number one reason this NDP government cites as reasons for emergency department closure,” said Shypitka. “How is this possible when the Minister of Health bragged about ‘unprecedented investments into B.C.’s healthcare workforce and system’ back in December 2023? This included the claim that 6,258 new nurses were hired last year. Where are they working? Not in the Elkford emergency department.”

On March 29, 2024, the emergency department will begin the 30th month of its closure.

“Temporary typically implies a short time frame while indefinite is without limit. Why does this matter? It’s about semantics,” said Syhpitka. “Temporary gives the impression of a short existence while indefinite has no timeline. The truth is that 30 months with no indication of change is far from temporary.”

Shypitka said Elkford’s gaps in health care services have made an impact on residents and mine workers in the Elk Valley.

“Not only is this a community without access to emergent care, but it’s also in the Elk Valley, which has some of the largest industrial mining activities in the country,” said Shypitka. “There may be times when there’s an industrial accident and you may need that emergency care. Without that in Elkford, you may need to go all the way to Fernie.”

Shypitka said he is continuing to work with Elkford Mayor Steve Fairbairn to push for solutions.

More: Elkford mayor continues to advocate for improved rural health care (Feb 21, 2023)

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