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Interior Health responds to growing safety concerns at Penticton, B.C. Regional Hospital

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Interior Health responds to growing safety concerns
WATCH: Following two recent serious incidents at Penticton Regional Hospital on top of already critical staffing levels, Interior Health is now responding to the growing safety concerns surrounding the South Okanagan hospital – Nov 3, 2022

Interior Health has responded to two serious incidents at Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH) on top of already critical staffing levels.

Back in September, after waiting an hour and a half in the Emergency Room, a woman referred to as Sara suffered a miscarriage in the bathroom at PRH.

“Certainly, it was devastating to learn about the story of a family that literally lost a baby in a hospital washroom,” said B.C.’s Opposition Health Critic Shirley Bond.

“From my perspective, it’s just another example of the many very difficult stories we hear from all across the province about a health-care system that is in crisis.”

Sara was later placed in a room but was left alone for hours.

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Another Penticton mom, who Global News is not naming due to privacy concerns, says after visiting the PRH emergency room during her pregnancy, she felt as though there was a lack of understanding and a disconnect between the emergency room and maternity ward.

“It’s very unfortunate and our hearts go out to the families,” said Interior Health’s Clinical Operations vice president Dr. Shallen Letwin.

“The staff in the emergency department are well trained for a situation like this. There are protocols in place of when maternity services are needed and that can manage in the emergency department.”

Then in October, a patient in PRH’s inpatient psychiatric unit died from what Global News has learned was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

An email sent to Global News raises concerns about the lack of safety protocols in the psychiatric unit following that incident.

“Today I visited a patient of the psychiatric ward, and the stories they told me about last night were chilling and unnerving,” read the email. Global News has provided anonymity to the writer due to privacy concerns.

“I am genuinely concerned for the mortality and health of anyone who enters the psychiatric ward at Penticton Regional Hospital.”

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According to Interior Health, psychiatric patients are not patted down or searched when they enter the ward.

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“They have rights themselves to come and go but if we have concerns, we will use the RCMP tools,” said Letwin. “Sometimes bags are checked depending on the situation. So, there are procedures in place but people come and go in their free will for care.”

BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) says they’ve heard from members that the inpatient psychiatric unit is in dire need of upgrades.

“They said it’s quite secluded and very difficult to get to during an emergency,” said BCNU president Aman Grewal.

“Response time to get to a code white or code blue is quite significant, they have to cut through a main parking lot to get to it. Those barriers are things that need to be looked at by Interior Health to see how they can remedy some.”

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Meanwhile, many areas of the hospital are facing a severe staffing shortage.

“In Penticton, we are hearing sometimes there is only one RN on the floor, and how unsafe the staffing ratios are,” said Grewal.

In response to the recent incidents and concerns, Interior Health said they take the matter seriously.

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“(What) I’d like to say is that the staff and IH really are sensitive and really sad for the families when tragic events occur,” said Letwin.

“We take them very seriously; our hearts are with them with any type of unforeseen circumstance that happens.”

Letwin said steps are being taken to address the concerns and investigations into both incidents are already underway.

“We take violence prevention very seriously at Interior Health. It’s signaled by a recent investment by the government with more security type of resources,” said Letwin.

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The province announced two weeks ago that new protection services officers will support health-care workers at 26 high-risk sites, including PRH.

However, Bond says, even more needs to be done and is calling for swift action before the crisis worsens.

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“It’s not about the nurses or the doctors, this is about a system in crisis,” said Bond.

“It’s about a minister that needs to do his job and it is certainly about a government recognizing and acknowledging that we have a crisis and that it is their responsibility to take leadership and do something.”

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