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Patients observe chaos inside the emergency department at Royal Inland Hospital

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Image Credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Kamloops resident Susan Shaw took her husband to the emergency department at Royal Inland Hospital on April, 29, and was horrified at the severely low number of nurses and healthcare workers on site, comparing the facility to a M.A.S.H. unit.

Shaw spent the weekend there while her husband was stabilized, observing what she described as chaos happening around her.

A former employee at the hospital for 27 years, Shaw understands the many changes and challenges hospital staff continually adapt to, but wasn’t prepared for what she experienced in the emergency department. She now fears for the future of the hospital if nothing is done to fix the situation.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Nurses were literally running everywhere. The halls were full with waiting patients. It was never like that during my career, there always seemed to be enough nurses in the emergency department. They were pulling nurses from the surgical unit and other departments to work in the emergency department.”

READ MORE: Severely low staff numbers at Kamloops hospital prompts walkout talks, pleas for help

Shaw said her husband stayed overnight on the Friday. He was lucky to get a bed on the inside of the department doors.

“There were three patients on stretchers in the main hallway of emergency,” Shaw said. “When I phoned Saturday morning to check on the status of my husband I was told the department was down 12 nurses and no one was available to talk, and to try calling back later.”

Shaw went to the hospital and stayed with her husband for the day. She said there were so many people waiting to be triaged into the department it was creating an overcrowded bottleneck situation.

“People were dealing with long wait times,” she said. “This hospital serves a huge area and it’s a trauma hospital. All the main highways come together here and when accidents happen trauma patients are brought here. We were told there were 40 patients in emergency waiting to get into a hospital bed because there were no beds to put them into.”

On Friday, April 29 around 9 p.m., Kamloops resident Jade Sallows went to the emergency department with an infection that needed immediate treatment.

“I was only in there for three hours and it was chaos,” she said. “They were so understaffed but were working their butts off. It was packed down the hallways with people waiting. I only saw maybe a total of four nurses working in the department. I appreciate nurses so much, this was heartbreaking.”

READ MORE: Interior Health hires more nurses to address staffing shortages at Kamloops hospital

Both Shaw and Sallows stress they received exceptional, compassionate care from hospital staff during their visits.

“Not once was I spoken to with anything other than empathy and compassion,” Sallows said. “They were absolute angels, doing their best.”

“The specialists, the nurses and the doctors are great and doing a fantastic job under these circumstances, we were treated very well,” Shaw said.

Shaw worries the crisis is going to get worse if the government does not intervene. 

“There are fewer young people going into the field,” she said. “I’m not sure about nursing, but medical imaging and those types of programs are not filling enough seats. I hope it doesn’t come to a point they will have to divert patients in need of emergency care. It is a real possibility and a very scary thought.”

In an emailed statement to iNFOnews, the Interior Health Authority said staffing challenges are being experienced across the health sector at the Royal Inland Hospital. 

"We are actively recruiting to fill vacancies and increase staffing compliments throughout the Kamloops region and across Interior Health," said the authority. "Interior Health's priority is to ensure patients have access to appropriate care, especially emergency care, while we work to address current staffing challenges."


To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 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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