Mayor Peter Milobar came under attack Tuesday — the second day in a row — for what's being seen as complacency in the leadup to Wednesday's announcement of funding for Royal Inland Hospital.
B.C. Nurses Union president Debra McPherson said she didn't know what Milobar was thinking when he commented Monday that the biggest issue at RIH for Kamloops residents is parking. Premier Christy Clark is due in Kamloops today to make an announcement regarding RIH.
"I don't know what his thinking is. From our point of view, there's a need for more capacity, more staffing, more community programs, more staff in long-term care so they don't end up in acute care," she said in a telephone interview.
Parking is a problem that's solvable with transit or having people park at a mall lot and busing, or other alternatives, she said.
"What it means is the people in the hallways can have their cars in the parking lot?" she said.
"I would hope the mayor would be the city's primary cheerleader in terms of dealing with the constant overcapacity in the hospital in Kamloops and put the needs of patients and patient care ahead of a parking lot."
On Monday, Milobar addressed a Rotary luncheon crowd when he was criticized by a retired gynecologist who felt RIH has been ignored by Interior Health and Victoria.
Milobar said the biggest complaint he's heard concerning the hospital is parking, even in last fall's municipal election. During that campaign, he raised the topic of RIH expansion several times and no one really latched onto it, he said.
The mayor said Tuesday he spoke with McPherson earlier in the day and never did find out where she got one quote that she attributed to him around the parkade priority.
"She obviously didn't read the article (from Monday's newspaper). I spoke to her this afternoon. I told her her comments are not accurate from the newspaper article," he said.
His interviews about RIH Monday were mainly focused on the parkade, not dealing with overcrowding.
"I never once talked about overcrowding. . . . The question was about the overall capital list of IHA. The parkade is on that, and I was asked about that and parking problems."
Milobar has been advocating for a few years for more capacity and parking at RIH, and for the entire $400-million master site plan to be implemented for the hospital.
Rather than McPherson taking a negative approach on his comments, he invited her to join the City in its lobby efforts to get the hospital's full plan implemented.
"I would ask them in joining me for a positive lobby effort. If she wants to attribute comments, I wish she would have backed it up the numerous lobbying stories I've had."
The regional hospital district has already started to increase taxes to build up funds for its share of the hospital expansion's capital costs, he said.
"There's many components to the master site plan and all of them are needed," he said.
"My lobby has been around the whole $400-million project. I've talked about a major expansion there to be the next one done in IHA. I've talked about that for the last two and a half to three years. I don't know if Ms. McPherson has a selective clipping service or what. I haven't been shy about voicing my concerns about what we need to improve health-care in Kamloops."
McPherson said the emergency room at RIH is chronically overflowing, patients are moved to Ponderosa if possible to ease the congestion, and yet the problems continue.
"Royal Inland is in the same place as just about every other facility in the province. They're running overcapacity almost continuously, patients stacked in the halls, people discharged too early," she said.
"Just want to make sure the premier gets the message notwithstanding whatever the mayor says, capacity and staffing — that's the word of the day."