This is National Nurses Week, a timely occurrence since Mayor Ken Christian and I met with nurses last week.
Some were from Royal Inland Hospital and others from long-term care facilities and public health.
After covering health for years for this newspaper and then hearing from nurses after council started speaking out about its concerns last year, it seemed unlikely they could say anything I hadn’t heard before. The nurses did and I wish I could talk about those examples publicly, but that would identify the nurses, who fear punishment from Interior Health if they complain.
But back to this week, the one that shines a light on our nurses. The theme is We Answer the Call.
The symbolism is perfect because our nurses — indeed, all of our health-care workers — are still stepping up and caring for the sick, albeit in an environment created by Interior Health that has seen most of them dealing with depression, burnout and a sense of abandonment by the very people who should be answering their calls.
Instead, Interior Health executives blow off the ongoing issues impacting our hospital by emailing vague statements that the health care at Royal Inland Hospital is excellent.
If anything, it is much better than it might be just because the nurses, doctors and all the other people we expect to care for our sick and dying are working harder than ever to live up to their oaths in a failing system. For nurses, that oath includes a promise to “do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession.”
Here is what can be discussed and what each of us must continue to demand be answered by Interior Health CEO Susan Brown and others:
It is estimated by the Kamloops nurses from their internal discussions that more than 50 per cent are being treated for depression. Many are being treated for suicidal thoughts. Most go home exhausted, many in tears because they know they didn’t give the quality of care they entered the profession to provide.
When the patient-nurse ratio doubles — or even triples — quality of care will decline.
Rural hospitals aren’t getting the help they need and people are dying because of it.
The much-heralded coronary-care unit opened less than three years ago, but is no longer doing the work it was created to do. Yes, it’s still monitoring the electrical activity of a patient’s heart and assessing coronary artery disease, but the more specialized work we were told would happen there isn’t happening anymore.
On the last weekend of April, RIH was down 27 per cent of its staff, yet Brown insisted the hospital is not near collapse. Those who were there to pick up the work of that 27 per cent would disagree.
In 2020, 21 per cent of nurses quit the hospital. Last year, 24 per cent resigned. Interior Health executives say this is normal. If that number of employees were to quit any other business, I suspect someone at the top might ask why.
The nurses have some of the reasons why:
• “I have been working under unfathomable conditions I never dreamed would be reality.”
• “I go home feeling defeated.”
• “The amount of deaths we have witnessed is traumatic.”
• “Our well-being and our patients’ well-being are being neglected every day.”
• “The shortage we are working in is horrific.”
• “We are nothing more than shells of the people we used to be.”
Remember, it is National Nurses Week. They are living up to its theme of always answering the call. Kamloops council is stepping up to answer their call to us to continue advocating for them. I hope the rest of Kamloops will join us and continue to demand Interior Health step up, too.
We showed our health-care workers how much we appreciated them during the worst of the pandemic. Let’s show them we appreciate them still.
Dale Bass is a Kamloops councillor. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this column, email email@example.com. Council columns appear monthly in KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com.