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Letter: IH speaks to OR cuts

To the residents of the Kootenay Boundary;

There has been significant attention around the changes Interior Health is making to the Operating Room at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital. These changes are going forward next month and will ensure Interior Health is equitably distributing the resources available in the Kootenay Boundary for the range of core services provided.

KBRH has been running beyond its budgeted resources and IH has to address areas like the OR to ensure we do not take away resources from other core service areas. KBRH will continue to have equal or greater access to surgical services compared to the other regional hospitals in Interior Health.

Changes to the OR include a move from 20 OR days with anaesthetist coverage to 16 days with anaesthetist coverage; ambulatory surgical days are being increased to allow for more day procedures. The team of surgeons and anaesthetists are highly-skilled and dedicated and we value what they bring to our site. We want them to continue providing care for our patients at KBRH and are committed to working with them on various strategies that will give them the work they need to stay at our hospital.

In order to minimize impact to staff, we are moving from 19 full-time RN positions to 12 full-time RN positions and seven part-time. All 19 RN positions and the one LPN position will remain permanent positions with their associated benefits. Of the seven part-time positions, four will be 0.8 of a full-time position, two will be 0.5 and an additional position will be 0.6. Some nurses did indicate a desire to move to part-time, and we have tried to work with the union to accommodate those staff. We always have casual shifts that will give nurses more hours if they want.The cost of running an operating room goes beyond the wages paid to health care professionals. There are costs related to surgical tools and equipment, sterilization of those supplies and support staff.

Interior Health is waiting to receive any information from the KBRH surgical group about an offer made through media to pay nursing staff directly. IH has not received any details about this offer at this time.

The staff and physicians at KBRH have done an excellent job reducing overtime and sick hours across the site. This makes a huge difference in protecting our available resources for where they are needed most. We will continue to work with them to provide the best possible services to all residents within the resources we have available.

I would also like to speak to a separate staffing mix change that began March 1. Let me clarify that we have not lost 23 nurses as has been reported. In order to make necessary changes, we had to give a number of staff displacement notice under our collective agreement with our unions. When this happens, staff can choose options on new positions. All of the nurses we did displace are still working; all but one of them at Kootenay Boundary sites, with the vast majority at KBRH.

These are similar to measures happening across Interior Health in these challenging economic times. I'd like to clarify that the Kootenay Boundary continues to have its own budget and the changes we are making are being done to ensure we stay within the resources we have available for our hospital and our region.

In relation to the KBRH Helipad project, it is a gift from our communities. Interior Health does not have funding invested in this project and this construction has had absolutely no impact on our budget process. Interior Health is grateful to everyone who has supported and continues to support the efforts of the Lower Columbia Community Development Team, the federal Western Diversification Fund, City of Trail, all the community businesses and organizations, and the residents who have made this project possible.

Frank Marino
Health Service Administrator for Trail and Castlegar