Kamloops mayor 'more than frustrated' by lack of communication from health officials | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops mayor 'more than frustrated' by lack of communication from health officials

Royal Inland Hospital is seen in this file photo.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
September 11, 2021 - 6:30 AM

Kamloops mayor Ken Christian has been reaching out to the B.C. Ministry of Health for weeks to discuss health-care staff shortages in the region, but the other end of the phone line has been silent.

Staffing shortages within Interior Health are causing stress for both health-care workers and patients, but the issue is more widespread than Royal Inland Hospital.

"This is a matter I've been attempting to take up with Ministry of Health since the middle of August. Unfortunately, (Minister Adrian Dix) has chosen not to return my calls," Mayor Ken Christian told iNFOnews.ca, Friday, Sept. 10. "And I'm more than frustrated by that, because the situation continues to deteriorate and I believe that we need some intervention from the ministry."

A lack of health-care professionals in the region has led to shortened hours at clinics in Ashcroft, Lillooet and Merritt, according to Thompson Nicola Regional District board chair Ken Gillis, putting extra strain on the nearest hospital, Royal Inland Hospital.

READ MORE: Health-care workers face 'moral injury' from work stress, protests, says expert

Christian is aiming to discuss funding from the province and determine if more funding for Interior Health would help address staffing shortages.

"In all fairness to Interior Health, they've had a very difficult hand dealt to them, but if this is a problem related to funding then this falls on the minister's desk," Christian said, adding that Interior Health is an over $2 billion organization overseeing a workforce of 26,000 people. "(Interior Health) has a lot to answer for from my perspective, but part of the problem is leadership is so diffuse, they are not focused on any one area."

Pressure has been mounting on health-care officials to address shortages at Royal Inland Hospital as a fourth wave of COVID-19 surges hospital visits, and Christian has been told by other regional district directors that staff shortages in more rural areas have been exacerbating the problem. From the COVID-19 pandemic to heat waves to wildfires and back to a fourth wave of COVID, staffing local health-care facilities have never been more critical. Earlier this week, an elderly patient died while waiting for help in the Emergency Room. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix offered no word on changes to funding or assistance for health-care facilities in Kamloops at a press conference earlier this week, but he did say the province is continuing to fund training and hiring for more staff.

“We’re doing what we’ve done, significantly, all over the province,” Dix said at a news conference, Sept. 9. “We are, purposely, in some places, delaying non-urgent surgeries and reallocating staff to address some of these issues.”

He also encouraged people to continue to get their COVID-19 vaccinations as it would alleviate pressure on hospital staff.

READ MORE: No immediate help coming from health minister to relieve COVID pressure at Kamloops, Kelowna hospitals

Around 20 nursing staff in the emergency room at Royal Inland Hospital have left in recent weeks, and the recent protests in front of B.C. hospitals has added stress to the workforce.

Kamloops RCMP have seen some of those issues too, as Car 40 units are forced to wait longer at Royal Inland Hospital while staff triage their patients. Insp. Jeff Pelley, officer in charge of operations at Kamloops RCMP, said police are working closely with hospital staff as they work through shortages.

Car 40 units, a partnership between RCMP officers and nurses to answer non-criminal mental health calls, must wait with the patient until they are seen by a health-care professional, in accordance with the Mental Health Act.

While Mayor Christian is seeking discussions with the provincial government, he said communication with Interior Health can be frustrating, too. He noted that even when reading local media coverage of healthcare, there is often input from staff members or even patients because an Interior Health spokesperson was unavailable.

"Interior Health loses control of the messages. There's never a spokesperson that has the authority to speak on behalf of Interior Health," Christian said. "It's frustrating for (the media), for me and extremely frustrating for members of the public."

iNFOnews.ca is awaiting comment from the Interior Health Authority and the B.C. Ministry of Health.

READ MORE: Sun Peaks doctor not giving in to patient requests for false vaccine exemptions

— With files from The Canadian Press and Rob Munro

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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