03/29/2012 04:41 EDT | Updated 05/29/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. health agencies seek injunction to prevent job action by anesthesiologists

VICTORIA - The B.C. government is using a legal hammer against anesthesiologists who are threatening to withdraw services in a contract dispute with the province.

Lawyers for health authorities have filed an application for an interim injunction to prevent any service withdrawal, and have also filed a civil claim that could be used against any doctor found in breach of their contract.

Interior Health CEO Robert Halpenny, speaking on behalf of all health authorities, says the anesthesiologists have created maximum confusion for patients, surgeons and other medical staff by threatening to withdraw services.

He says lawyers have sent the anesthesiologists a letter advising them they're bound by contracts they have signed to provide patient care.

Halpenny says health authorities will do whatever they can to maintain patient services, but they are also preparing for a withdrawal, sending letters to 3,237 patients warning that their surgeries might have to be rescheduled.

There will be no postonements for patients needing emergency or urgent surgery.