About 200 outpatient procedures were cancelled at Royal Inland Hospital on Friday as health science professionals continued their job action to pressure the province into a new collective agreement.
Diagnostic-imaging services operated at essential levels only, with just three staff on duty, said Anne Ross, the Health Sciences Association’s job action co-ordinator for Kamloops.
Usually there are 40 X-ray technologists and radiation therapists on duty at a given time, said Ross.
Interior Health spokeswoman Cathy Renkas said 176 procedures were cancelled or rescheduled at RIH on Friday. Staff did their best to notify patients several days in advance.
“We’ll do our best to get those people in as quickly as we can,” said Renkas.
What’s most important is no surgeries have so far been cancelled because of the job action. Renkas said any patient who requires emergency or urgent health care receives those services.
“That’s really important to know,” she said. “We ensure that if you have a surgery that’s going on, or if you require a diagnostic scan before surgery can proceed, that will still happen.”
Renkas hopes, as the job action continues into next week, that surgeries will continue unhindered. Lab services will be at essential service levels on Monday.
Ross and a colleague stood at the corner of Columbia and Victoria streets on Friday morning handing out brochures to passers-by explaining why health science professionals are taking action.
“Taking strike action is not a decision we make lightly,” she said. “We’re doing this to draw attention to how important our employees are.”
She said health science employees in B.C. are falling behind the cost of living and professionals who do the same work elsewhere in Canada get paid more.
“The wages across Canada are a lot higher than they are here. We cannot recruit people,” said Ross.
Association president Reid Johnson said his members aren’t asking for a huge increase, just a two-per-cent raise for two years as part of a new collective agreement.
“We understand the government has revenue problems,” he said, adding the association wants what other health professional have negotiated.
“We’re not looking to make up the $6, $10 or $14-per-hour difference that people are making elsewhere in the country.”
He said it took nine months of bargaining, strike action and the involvement of mediator Vince Ready to get the province to come to the table.