By TODD STONE
MLA, Kamloops- South Thompson
I THINK MOST OF US IN KAMLOOPS feel like we’re at our limit. Between an intense fire season that has devastated communities, thick smoke blanketing the air and a pandemic that never seems to end, we’re all exhausted and stressed — and desperate for a break.
No one is feeling this more than our valued front-line workers, especially in health care. Nurses in particular are completely burnt out— so much so, that reports indicate as many as two-thirds of emergency room nurses at Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) have recently left their jobs.
They say they have been spread too thin as the hospital tries to grapple with the impacts of wildfire smoke and evacuations, heatwave illnesses, an addiction and mental health crisis, a family doctor shortage that drives more people to the E.R., and a pandemic that has dragged on for nearly two years.
But these major circumstances have only exacerbated a problem that already existed at RIH. The hospital has been at more than 120 per cent capacity for the past four years, so these challenges definitely predate the pandemic.
Instead of finding constructive solutions, Health Minister Adrian Dix continues to blame the former B.C. Liberal government for not training enough nurses, which is untrue. Between 2001 and 2016, our government invested more than $200 million to educate, recruit and retain nurses and we more than doubled the number of nurse training spaces by adding 4,800 additional spots. The B.C. Liberals were also responsible for making the new nursing building at Thompson Rivers University a reality.
What the minister hasn’t done is take any meaningful steps to address these ever-growing capacity challenges. He and his government launched a new Urgent Care Centre with great fanfare after assuming power in 2017. While this facility looks and sounds great, it unfortunately hasn’t relieved any of the intense pressure on the system.
Speaking of 2017, the local NDP candidate in the provincial election campaign ran on the issue of health care, citing a lack of doctors in Kamloops. The slogan being proclaimed was “#GotNoDoc.” Sadly, not only are thousands of Kamloops residents still without a primary care provider despite NDP promises to the contrary, but the healthcare situation in Kamloops is worse than ever. One might say we now also #GotNoNurse.
So what’s the result of the NDP’s inaction and lack of a plan to ramp up staffing at RIH? We’ve seen more than 200 cancelled surgeries to date, with word that a further 73 could be cancelled. And we’ve got a $415 million Patient Care Tower — approved and funded by the former B.C. Liberal government — that will open soon, potentially without enough nurses to staff it.
What a sad reality for a facility that our community worked so hard together to achieve. We must ensure it can be used to its full capacity, for the benefit of patients and their families.
What we need is a health human resources strategy to address the healthcare worker shortages we’re seeing not only in Kamloops, but across the province and in a spectrum of positions. This is something our Official Opposition has raised with the health minister before, but it doesn’t appear to be a priority for the NDP.
Neither does the new cancer centre that John Horgan and the NDP promised to the people of Kamloops in the recent provincial election. They continue to dance around the subject and make excuses for why they won’t achieve this goal within their current four-year mandate, as the premier promised.
Only one thing is clear in this muddled mess they have created: when it comes to health care in Kamloops, John Horgan and the NDP have turned their backs on us.
Todd Stone is the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson.