More details have come to light about a meeting between Kamloops council and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, which occurred behind closed doors on Nov. 26.
On Tuesday, Nov. 30, during the mayor’s report at council, Mayor Ken Christian said council met with not only the health minister, deputy minister and additional ministry brass, but also with Interior Health’s vice-president of clinical operations, Diane Shendruk, who is relocating to Kamloops, and acting CEO of Interior Health, Dr. Shallen Letwin, who covered for CEO Susan Brown.
“All in all, I think it was a good discussion, but I suspect it was the start of a discussion,” Christian said.
He said the meeting lasted for 90 minutes, noting Dix was up to speed with challenges at Royal Inland Hospital, which includes the facility operating over-capacity, cancellation of elective surgeries and four concurrent COVID-19 outbreaks that recently ended.
Christian said Dix is confident the hospital is still able to meet the needs of residents in Kamloops and the region. Royal Inland Hospital serves not only the Tournament Capital, but smaller communities around the city.
Christian said council detailed complaints from within the community. The foremost issue raised was staffing — student nurses, shortages, physician recruitment and the Car 40 program, the latter of which has been pushed for expansion by Kamloops RCMP and members of city council, but which Interior Health has not provided additional nursing hours.
Car 40 is a program that pairs a Mountie with a nurse to respond to mental health-related calls.
Christian said Dix acknowledged the “quantity and complexity of needs” at the hospital and committed to working on staffing.
“The minister also committed to engaging with the community on the area of complex care, which, for me, was one of the salient parts of the discussion,” Christian said. “He’s meeting with staff teams at Royal Inland Hospital to hear their concern, which he routinely does.”
Christian said provincial Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Sheila Malcolmson will also be following up with the city to discuss a requested sobering centre.
KTW has reached out to the Ministry of Health for information on the meeting, but has yet to receive a response.
Coun. Dale Bass said she is happy the minister met with council, but added she is not confident issues will get better at RIH. Bass said she continues to receive emails and other messages from hospital staff who feel guilty when they go home because they were unable to provide a proper standard of care and don’t have support.
Bass said staff go home upset and don’t want to go to the hospital when they are sick. Bass said she told Dix as much and that he reiterated it has been a difficult year because of the pandemic.
“It was too easy for him to say, well you know, COVID, tough year,” Bass said.
Coun. Bill Sarai credited Dix for spending time with council. He said the biggest issue is staffing — an issue that has been compounded not only by a pandemic, but by successive natural disasters, with evacuees in town and putting even more pressure on RIH
Sarai said one idea would be to utilize new Canadians who are trained in the health-care field, but are currently working in non-health-care fields across the country.