After much debate, Thompson Regional Hospital District directors adopted a bylaw containing Interior Health's major capital funding requests for this year, including the addition of two more operating rooms for Royal Inland Hospital.
Dianne Kostachuk, director of business operations for IH, told TRHD directors the health authority has budgeted $4.7 million to renovate and purchase equipment for two vacated operating rooms in the old tower.
The hospital district’s share of the cost will be $1.88 million.
In a letter to the board about the last-minute capital funding request, IH said the operating rooms will provide extra capacity to help the hospital meet its surgical wait targets.
“The Gaglardi Tower includes 11 operating rooms, and re-opening two operating rooms in the South Tower will increase our total capacity to 13 rooms,” the letter said.
“This project will require renovations for two vacated operating room spaces as well as the purchase and installation of all equipment necessary to operationalize the operating rooms.”
Some directors raised concerns about the staffing capacity for current operating rooms.
Al Raine, director and Sun Peaks mayor, asked how often existing operating rooms are being used.
Tracey Rannie, the executive director of clinical operations for RIH, said operating theatres typically run Monday to Friday during the day, with some kept ready for emergencies.
“We always have an on-call team to support that,” Rannie said.
She noted the hospital has had some staffing challenges but is continuing to recruit, and has just hired eight new registered nurses to work in operating rooms.
Katie Neustaeter, director and Kamloops councillor, asked why the hospital isn’t expanding hours for the existing operating rooms, using the spaces to their full capacity.
Rannie said while staff perform emergency surgeries 24/7, having other surgeries scheduled during the day gives staff better work-life balance — key for recruitment and retention. Daytime surgeries also mean surgeons are more alert and ready, and more staff are available to help patients recover.
She estimated the two operating rooms will take about 18 to 19 months to open, and RIH is starting to recruit in advance to staff them.
“It’s really just giving us more space to do the work that we need, and then recruit folks to help support the work,” Rannie replied.
Nancy Bepple, director and Kamloops councillor, agreed with uncertainty voiced around the room about staffing, but noted all the board itself can leverage is capital.
She said she felt getting more surgical spaces will help encourage other specialists to come to Kamloops.
“We have a hard time recruiting across all different types of disciplines in IHA compared to Kelowna, and having that extra surgical space available, I think would make us a more attractive place,” Bepple said.
Barbara Roden, Ashcroft mayor and director, said the cost of building isn’t getting cheaper, and agreed that work-life balance was important for healthcare workers.
“I would suspect you will have difficulty attracting surgeons to any operating room no matter how new it might be if they're told that they will be working from midnight till eight in the morning — and not even mentioning all the support staff, the registered nurses,” Roden said.
The TRHD board voted in favour of adopting IH’s list of capital requests, which also includes a consolidation of mental health and substance use services at Lansdowne Street in downtown Kamloops, a $3 million renewable energy upgrade for Clearwater’s hospital, and a new nurse call system for the Lillooet Hospital.
Funding for a cancer care business case was in the original list of capital funding requests, but it was shelved by IH on Thursday, with the health authority citing a need to have another stakeholder meeting on the matter.