IH CEO says staffing levels were low over weekend, but RIH not 'nearing collapse'

'A lot for us to contend with'

The head of Interior Health says nurse staffing levels at Royal Inland Hospital were low last weekend due to illness, but the hospital continues to provide care to people in Kamloops and the surrounding area.

IH CEO Susan Brown said RIH had 27 per cent of its scheduled nursing staff — RNs, LPNs and care aides — off sick on Friday last week.

“That’s a lot for us to contend with, and significantly higher than the same time last year,” she said, noting the workers were off with COVID-19 and other non-COVID illnesses.

“The weekend continued on along that vein.”

Castanet Kamloops asked Brown to comment on the hospital’s staffing levels after a series of news stories in recent days, citing unnamed nurses, claiming RIH was half-staffed over the weekend.

On Tuesday, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone told CFJC Today the hospital is “nearing collapse.”

Brown contends that is not accurate, but she acknowledged the facility is struggling and has struggled in recent months through a number of crises relating to staffing, the COVID-19 pandemic, last summer’s wildfires and November’s historic flooding.

“There’s recognition that Royal Inland has been through a really tough time,” she said.

“I know it’s been very tough. But I do need the public to know that IH and our leadership is committed to supporting Royal Inland.”

Castanet Kamloops asked Brown for her take on just how dire the situation at the hospital is.

“I would say Royal Inland delivers excellent care,” she said.

“The staff and physicians working there are working really hard. There’s a lot of effort being put in by the people there. I would not say people are not getting the care they need in the community.”

Brown said recruitment remains the solution, but it’s still a struggle to attract and hire the right people — a problem she said is not unique to Kamloops or B.C.

“I need people to know that we’re striving to solve a lot of our problems based on recruitment,” she said.

“We’re doing everything we can to attract people to the community and also to encourage people to come and enjoy some of the benefits of being in the community.”

Gag order?

A story Thursday in the Vancouver Sun detailed a so-called "gag order" on B.C. nurses, allegedly preventing them from speaking with reporters or posting unflattering information on social media.

Interior Health nurses have told Castanet, and many other news outlets, that they have been told they will lose their jobs if the speak on the record to a reporter about something that paints IH or one of its facilities in a negative light.

Brown said IH has a policy in place but she stopped short of calling it a "gag order." She said such conditions are standard in the healthcare field.

“All health authorities and industries have code of conduct policies," she said.

"There’s no gag order. We have a social media policy relating to privacy.”

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