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Interior Health responds to concerns about staffing levels at Royal Inland Hospital

The health authority has detailed some hiring initiatives for the downtown Kamloops hospital.
Royal Inland Hospital
Royal Inland Hospital is in downtown Kamloops, at Columbia Street and Third Avenue.

Following numerous reports of a staffing shortage at Royal Inland Hospital, and questions relating to the death last week of a 70-year-old woman while waiting about six hours for treatment in the ER, Interior Health’s communications department has issued a statement.

While the health authority stated it cannot speak to specific staffing levels in connection with when the death occurred, it did provide information on general staffing complements.

“A full staffing complement on nights in the RIH emergency department (ED) is 11 registered nurses, one registered psychiatric nurse and one licensed practical nurse,” the health authority said. “We are always working to ensure shifts are filled, but there are times when the ED is below its regular staffing.”

Interior Health said it reviews all unexpected deaths that occur in a hospital to determine what took place.

“Staffing levels are included in that review, so it would not be appropriate to speak to those specific details as that process is underway,” the statement reads.

The health authority reiterated what has been reported extensively previously — that wildfire-related evacuations of patients to RIH and a rising number of COVID-19 patients have created staffing challenges at the hospital.

“At times, the number of people accessing emergency department services can be high, which increases pressure at the site as well,” the statement reads.

While the health authority has not confirmed staffing numbers provided to KTW and other media outlets by doctors, nurses and the BC Nurses’ Union — information that incuded revelations that two-thirds of the nursing team in the ER had recently left their jobs due to burnout from being overworked — it did detail some hiring initiatives.

These include:

ª Two new permanent nurses, hired for the emergency department, are currently completing orientation and will start soon.

• Temporary (agency) nurses are being brought in to support permanent staff in the RIH emergency department; four are scheduled to start next week and more will be brought in as needed.

• Where possible, Interior Health is 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. 

• Since June 5, nine new registered nurses have joined the emergency department (including five permanent full-time, one permanent part-time and three casual positions).

• Interior Health has spent $1 million this year specifically to add staff to the RIH emergency department. This includes a registered nurse patient-care coordinator for night shifts, an additional registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse for the daytime/evening shift and an additional registered practical nurse on day shifts.

• Interior Health 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.