Nurses’ union warns of dangerous conditions at Royal Inland Hospital

By on February 8, 2017
Photo courtesy of Kamloops This Week.

By: Dale Bass (Kamloops This Week)

Nurses at Royal Inland Hospital are working in dangerous conditions, said Gayle Duteil, president of the B.C. Nurses Union (BCNU).

On Jan. 31, she said, RIH was 90 patients over capacity, noting there are plans to open more rooms in nearby Ponderosa Lodge for those recuperating and who are waiting to be moved into care facilities or back home.

Duteil said nurses have reported to the union the hospital has been at historically high capacity during the holiday season, ranging from 125 to 138 per cent.

RIH health-service director Kris Kristjanson said the facility did hit 130 per cent of capacity last week and steps were taken to help move some occupied beds to Ponderosa, where patients can wait until a care bed is available.

He said flu and flu-like symptoms have led to many people turning to RIH for health care.

“It’s is particularly virulent this year,” Kristjanson said of the flu virus, noting many patients arriving are elderly and require additional care. It’s why additional beds have been opened at Ponderosa, a situation he expects will continue for several months because care facility beds are full.

Duteil noted flu season isn’t new and hospitals need to plan for it.

Duteil said nurses were being called several times on their days off in recent weeks.

“They are tired,” she said. “And this is no different across the province. It’s routine and it’s reprehensible.”

Kristjanson, however, noted the collective agreement with the BCNU requires off-duty staff be advised of potential extra shifts available.

The hospital uses an automated system that sends such messages via text messages and emails and every available shift prompts the system to act so staff could receive several such notices.

Duteil said she was pleased to hear plans for a patient-care tower at RIH have been approved, “but that’s not helping nurses now.”

Kristjanson praised nurses and all RIH staff for “working hard to meet the demand now, in what we call the winter-surge month.”

He said actual numbers arriving at RIH are dynamic and change daily.

“We don’t discourage people from coming,” he said.

“We don’t put out the message don’t come here. You may have to wait, but we will take care of everyone who comes here.”

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