Pressure is mounting on the provincial government to address a staffing crisis in the emergency department at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C.
The BC Liberals MLAs representing the city’s residents held a press conference on Monday morning calling on Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix of the NDP to “take accountability” for failing the Thompson Valley city, and outline a plan with clear implementation dates to address the problem.
“First and foremost, we want to say a heartfelt thank-you to all the health care providers at Royal Inland Hospital for their hard work, dedication, and professionalism, especially under these impossible circumstances,” said Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone.
“The government has let the situation at the hospital’s emergency department become dire — we’ve heard reports that some shifts have only three nurses trying to keep up with a workload usually handled by 13 people. This is not fair to our health care providers, who are being pushed to the point of exhaustion and burnout, and it’s not fair for patients who are now faced with unacceptably long wait times for care.”
Stone said that a 70-year-old woman tragically died in an emergency department waiting room while seeking treatment last week, and that recent reports suggest that approximately 25 per cent of the ER nurses have left in the past few months, and 20 more have switched to casual work due to burnout and stress.
“The government has tried to blame COVID-19 and wildfires for the crisis at RIH, in an attempt to deflect attention from the fact they have failed to properly resource the hospital throughout their four years in power, culminating in the current crisis,” said Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar.
“The government’s quiet announcement last Saturday of two additional emergency department nurses and vague references to temporary supports is too little, too late. It’s putting a band-aid on a gaping wound,” Stone added.
Kamloops radio station Radio NL interviewed Amanda Young on Sept. 8, who said her mother was taken to the Kamloops ER the night before complaining of stomach pains and died while waiting for care at around 2 a.m.
Royal Inland Hospital has been suffering from an acute nursing shortage, especially in the ER where approximately two-thirds of their staff have reportedly quit or transferred out, due to burnout exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the radio station reported.
On Sept. 11, Interior Health (IH) released a statement saying it’s attempting to address the staffing shortages at RIH.
The regional health authority said two new permanent nurses have been hired for the emergency department and temporary nurses are being brought in to support permanent staff.
IH says four are scheduled to start this week, and more will be brought in as needed.
“Where possible, we are redeploying and reassigning clinical staff who can provide immediate support and relief to the emergency department shifts at RIH, and other areas of the site that need extra support,” IH states.
“IH is establishing a central recruitment team dedicated to RIH which will streamline the hiring process and shorten the time it takes to fill a vacant position. We are committed to filling all vacant positions as quickly as possible.”
Since June 5, nine new registered nurses have joined the emergency department, the health authority said, and it’s invested $1 million to add staff to the RIH ER this year.
IH says the summer’s significant wildfire activity and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across the region are contributing factors to staffing challenges at RIH, along with a high number of people accessing emergency department services at times.
Global News has reached out to the Ministry of Health for comment.
-With files from Radio NL and CFJC Today