City councillor unsatisfied after talk with Dix about Kamloops hospital

City talks RIH with Dix, IH

Kamloops’ mayor and council met with provincial leaders and representatives from Interior Health in a closed meeting Friday to discuss concerns raised by councillors, healthcare workers and the public about the state of Royal Inland Hospital.

The meeting came two weeks after Coun. Mike O’Reilly brought forward to council concerns that an ongoing lack of staffing at the hospital was causing hardship to Kamloops residents and healthcare workers.

Mayor Ken Christian told Castanet he had a long conversation last week with Adrian Dix, the provincial minister of health. Dix also met with council on Friday for about an hour and a half.

“I think there has been progress made. The problem is that there needs to be a lot of progress. I think we're going in the right direction,” Christian said.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Christian said the meeting also included Stephen Brown, deputy minister of health, Alex MacDonald, the province’s senior ministerial advisor and Diane Shendruk, Interior Health North’s vice president of clinical operations.

Christian said Dr. Shallen Letwin, acting CEO for IH, attended in CEO Susan Brown’s place, due to a “brief absence” from Brown.

He said Dix seemed to be aware of the challenges Interior Health was facing in regards to the hospital, with the minister commenting that RIH is one of the busiest sites in the province, operating above base and surge bed capacity.

“The minister was steadfast in terms of his discussion that the hospital was still able to meet the needs of the residents of not only Kamloops, but the region,” Christian said.

“Council, on the other hand, referenced a number of complaints and concerns which we have been receiving from area residents, reflecting a number of elements of operations and most notably issues related to staffing and shortages of staffing.”

Christian said councillors also brought forward issues related to physician recruitment, Car 40, and complex care as it relates to those experiencing homelessness.

Christian said Dix reiterated the province is working to address needs through constructing the new patient care tower and implementing a recruitment campaign for RIH.

“The minister acknowledged the quantity and complexity of the needs of Royal Inland Hospital and committed to being able to work specifically with them on the staffing piece,” Christian said.

Christian said Dix also committed to meeting with hospital staff teams to hear their concerns and to engage with the community in regards to complex care.

Christian said a meeting with Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, is forthcoming to discuss a sobering centre.

“All in all, I think it was a good discussion, but I suspect it was the start of a discussion,” Christian said.

Coun. Dale Bass said she was glad Dix took the time to meet with council, and committed to act on some of the points they raised, but said she ultimately left the meeting feeling that her concerns were not adequately addressed.

“I felt that he was more explanatory about IHA and less apologetic about IHA,” Bass said.

“He didn't really address the issues I raised for sure. I spoke on Car 40, I spoke on [a sobering centre], and on both he said, ‘Well, you'll have to talk to the minister of mental health,’ which I thought was interesting because when I spoke to the minister of mental health, she said I have to speak to the minister of health,” Bass said.

Bass said in the meeting, she summed up the dozens of comments she has received from RIH healthcare workers indicating they are overworked, leaving the hospital daily “feeling guilty that they can’t do their job.”

"When I said, 'So what do you have to comment on that?' it was all, ‘Well, it's been a hard year, you know, COVID,’ and I felt disappointed that he was not acknowledging — other than to say everybody has had it rough — the fact that what we have heard in the last few weeks, and what I have been hearing for months, is that they are done,” Bass said.

“They are burned out, they are going to never recover from going into work every day knowing they can't do the job they signed up to do because they don't have the support system in place to ensure they can provide the proper medical care they want to do.”

Since O’Reilly spoke up about the situation at the hospital earlier in November, Bass said councillors have received dozens of emails from healthcare workers and members of the public expressing concerns about the lack of staffing at Royal Inland Hospital.

Bass said she has heard nurses are being asked to work in specialized areas of the hospital they aren’t trained for, like intensive care and maternity wards.

She said healthcare workers have said that the nurse-to-patient ratio is “unhealthy,” resulting in patients having to wait to receive medications and other forms of care.

Nurses have been told that more staff have been hired, but Bass said staff report they aren’t seeing a change.

“Every year it's gotten worse, now it's beyond crisis,” Bass said.

“When you have nursing staff going home in tears, questioning why they are doing what they're doing, feeling they have failed their patients, that is not just a blip in healthcare, that is not just COVID.”

More Kamloops News