The time for NDP to fix crisis at Royal Inland Hospital is now: BC Liberals

BC Liberals’ Kamloops MLAs Todd Stone and Peter Milobar on Thursday expressed their loss of confidence in the ability and commitment of the Interior Health Authority (IHA) to meet the needs of the city and region as the situation at Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) becomes reportedly more dangerous and stressful by the day.

They called on Health Minister Adrian Dix to fix this crisis now and added that if he couldn’t, then Premier John Horgan should step in and appoint a new minister who could.

Just this past weekend, IHA put out an urgent call to all healthcare workers in the region, looking for volunteers to redeploy to Kamloops to address critical staffing shortages on and beyond the May long weekend, the BC Liberals said.

“Our health care providers at RIH are doing their best under very challenging circumstances, and we offer them a heartfelt thank-you for their hard work, dedication and professionalism,” said Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Stone.

“It’s for them and for patients that we continue to press this NDP government and IHA to take responsibility for the chronic mismanagement that has left RIH in the position it is in. Actions must be taken today to address the workplace conditions that are burning out our nurses and other healthcare professionals and forcing them to leave their jobs in droves.”

The BC Liberals said nurses have been speaking out anonymously out of fear of being reprimanded. They claimed that one nurse said, “Nurses are beyond done. They are beyond the point of exhaustion. They are defeated. Every shift is grossly short-staffed, and we are being subjected to moral injury. Staff are taking stress leaves, or they are outright leaving the profession. We need strategies set in place to retain our current staff, to stop the hemorrhaging of experience from this hospital.”

In addition to the worsening nurse and staffing shortage, the overall situation at RIH is getting worse by the day. The closure of the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) means the loss of four critical care beds. Other units, like pediatrics, are being hit with temporary closures. A lack of operating room capacity is leading to longer wait times for surgeries — or to surgeries being performed in Okanagan hospitals, often by Kamloops surgeons, the BC Liberals said.

They added that patients are also increasingly being sent to Salmon Arm for diagnostics. Acute care beds at RIH are filled with patients who continue to face year-long waits to get into long-term care. And the E.R. at RIH is facing increased pressure due to routine E.R. closures in rural communities like Clearwater and Ashcroft; other services like home care are deteriorating; and 1 in 5 British Columbians are finding themselves without a family doctor.

The BC Liberal MLAs are proposing the following actions:

* A concrete health human resources plan for RIH with a focus on retention and recruitment. This should include a strategy for short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions to the staffing shortage at RIH.
* Replacement of the current HR administration structure at RIH — which clearly isn’t working — with a model similar to that at Kelowna General Hospital.
* The immediate addition of more operating hours in Kamloops, as well as a roadmap for adding more fully-staffed and resourced operating rooms as soon as possible.
* A resolution to the family doctor crisis, which will ease pressure on hospital and staff resources.
* Regular public communication by the IHA’s CEO and all levels of management to ensure maximum transparency on the true state of RIH and plans to address this challenging situation.
“RIH is one of the two tertiary hospitals in IHA, and it’s one of the largest and busiest trauma hospitals in B.C. What’s happening at RIH is inexcusable. Staff shortages are getting worse by the day, patients are suffering, the workplace has been described as toxic — yet IHA administration continues to publicly downplay concerns, if acknowledging them at all,” said Milobar, MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson. “RIH is either a tertiary hospital or it is not. The NDP can no longer blame this situation on the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and floods. Instead of more NDP rhetoric, we need results now to stem this growing crisis at RIH.”