LETTER – Patient safety is key in radio communication at new RIH addition

One of the new operating rooms at RIH. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

Should the new addition at Royal Inland Hospital be designated a “radio free zone”?

Just this past year, a report in a couple of media outlets stated that Kamloops Fire & Rescue had serious difficulty in communicating into and out of the new addition at RIH.

New construction techniques and materials have effectively blocked radio frequency signals that KFR uses to communicate with their dispatcher(s). A mobile unit and person served as a relay between personnel on the inside of the building to the dispatcher. Councillor Dale Bass said that was “not acceptable”.

While I understand the concern KFR has in this matter, one must balance things in looking at the bigger picture.

The primary purpose for a hospital is to provide patient care. We hope, when we find ourselves being a patient, that every measure has been taken to keep patient safety as a priority.

That goes for having trained staff, proper procedures and state of the art medical equipment to perform tests, monitor our vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate etc. and also equipment that maintains us when we are in critical care.

Much of the state of the art medical equipment is based upon sensitive electronics. There is no room for any outside energy source to throw off how medical equipment works.

What has been overlooked is that the portable radio carried by the KFR member is a transceiver; it both receives and also transmits radio signals. The transmitter generally is capable of producing 5 watts of radio frequency energy. This level of RF energy may be enough to influence the operation of sensitive medical equipment, especially if the lines to sensors act like antennas.

The idea has come along that the answer to KFR radio problems is to install a repeater inside the new addition at the hospital. There will need to be at least one antenna connected to the repeater.

It is unknown what power level the transmitter of the repeater station will have. Also unknown is the placement of the antenna or antennas to provide effective coverage inside the new addition at RIH.

While I welcome the assistance of KFR under just about every circumstance, I think some serious thought and engineering be put into this project. I have been a patient at RIH and have had surgeries to deal with Crohn’s disease.

I’m pretty sure some sensitive electronic medical equipment was connected to me during the surgeries I had performed. The last thing I would want to have happen is the video display on a monitor go haywire if the in-house repeater came live on the air or a person used his or her 5 watt transmitter to send a message back to dispatch.

The item of radio communications from inside the new addition at RIH might come up for discussion at committee level and led by a council member in the near future. I hope and trust that someone at Interior Health is at the table speaking for patient safety.


About Mel Rothenburger (9647 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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