An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE ISSUE OF STAFF PARKING at Royal Inland Hospital has brought a lot of response both from the public and from those who work there.
There’s a distinct difference between those responses. People who don’t work at the hospital feel free to comment as they like, and to put their names behind what they say. Those who do work there also have a lot to say, but are very reluctant to sign their names for fear of repercussions.
A common practice among the media is to insist that those who submit letters to the editor or guest columns for publication put their names to them. This establishes the legitimacy of the opinion, adds credibility to it and gives those who read it an understanding that the writer is a real person with sincere viewpoints that deserve to be listened to.
There is an exception to this policy, though. If the person offering an opinion fears professional or personal consequences because of what he or she says or writes publicly, media will often allow the name to be withheld.
And that’s exactly what’s happening in the case of the staff parking issue. The original letter that prompted the current discussion was from an anonymous nurse, and several other letters from other RIH staff members — and even a nursing student — have included requests for anonymity, which are being honoured.
The BC Nurses Union says this concern about possible repercussions is legitimate. Which raises a question — why do employees feel reluctant to express opinions about what’s going on in hospitals?
Surely, our health care workers should feel comfortable publicly talking about issues involving work: in this case something so basic as a shortage of staff parking. An atmosphere of free and open discussion of non-confidential matters is, surely, desirable.
The fact such an atmosphere apparently doesn’t exist should be a major concern to Interior Health, every bit as much as the issue itself.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.