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Snow shovelers busy clearing hospital grounds

Justin Altunin is bundled up and ready to weather a snowy night outside Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
December 19, 2012 - 7:06 PM

Vernon's snow shovelers are working hard to protect citizens from painful falls, especially outside the hospital.

Tina Coletti, Vernon Jubilee Hospital's manager of emergency room services, says the holidays always see a spike in injuries, as well as waiting times.

"When surfaces are slippery, we see an increased number of injuries from falls, as well as motor vehicle incidents," Coletti says. "And Silver Star brings a large clientele as well."

Helping to minimize slips outside the hospital, are a fleet of shovelers. 

It's Justin Altunin's first season as a snow shoveler, and he says it's a busy job.

"When it starts snowing hard, boom, that's when we get 20 guys out shoveling." Altunin says.

The company Altunin works for covers many locations in the city, but the hospital is their number one priority. It's where people come to get better, says Altunin.

"People expect it to be safe."

He says at night, efforts are focused at the hospital and the Super Store, because they're open 24/7.

"It's also important to hit places like the post office early in the morning," Altunin explains.

Altunin says they usually have five guys spread out around the hospital, clearing the sidewalks and parking lots.

"When it's just one of us, we concentrate on the entrances."

The weather is unpredictable, and Altunin says he has to be ready to head out in a moment's notice when the snow begins to fall.

"Even after it stops, we've got at least 10 hours of work to do."

But not all accidents can be prevented by diligent snow shoveling, and when patients head to the hospital over the holidays, Coletti says there are some things to keep in mind.

First off, she says it's important to think about the severity of the injury or illness, and whether or not you need to go to the hospital.

She encourages people to use the 811 health link line, which connects people to nurses who can offer guidance on how to proceed.

"They can help people navigate the system," she says.

She says wait times are guaranteed to be long, and that anyone who doesn't have to be in the hospital will appreciate going to a family doctor or walk-in clinic instead.

She explains the ER policy is not "first come, first serve".

"We bring people in based on injury," she says. "A triage system is used to ensure priority is given to patients requiring the most urgent care."

She says even with increased staffing over the holidays, the hospital can only take in a certain amount of patients due to a limited amount of beds. She says she doesn't want patients who have a bed to feel like the hospital is rushing them out, though it might feel like that way sometimes.

"It's really tragic when people come in on stretchers and have to wait for a bed," she says, adding it's important to discharge people as soon as they can to open up space.

"We appreciate everyone's patience in the process," Coletti says. "We're trying our best to create a positive patient experience."

To avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital, Interior Health provides these tips:

-For non-urgent care during office hours, call your family doctor or the doctor on call for the practice or clinic.
-Consider going to a walk-in clinic. Call ahead to check the clinic's hours.
-Try to see your doctor before the holidays, if you have any developing health concerns.
-Note the holiday hours of your local pharmacy or drug store, and ensure your prescriptions are up to date and filled prior to the holidays.
-Call HealthLink BC at 811 for confidential health information and non-emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For deaf and hearing-impaired assistance, call 711
-If you are concerned about a possible poisoning, call Poison Control at 1-800-567-8911.

And of course, if at any time you feel you require urgent medical attention, do not hesitate to go to the Emergency Department or call emergency services at 911.

—Charlotte Helston

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2012
InfoTel News Ltd

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