Head of department optimistic despite anesthesiologist shortage

'It's going to be a bit of struggle maybe for the next six months for surgeons and patients'

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
January 12, 2013 01:00 AM

Active recruiting by Interior Health and Royal Inland Hospital administration should see anesthesiologists hired by year's end, the head of the hospital's anesthesiology department said Friday.

"It's going to be a bit of struggle maybe for the next six months for surgeons and patients, but I remain optimistic that, come the fall, we'll be in a much better position," said Rod Cameron.

The Daily News incorrectly reported that the anesthesiologist going on leave at the end of the week was the hospital's only remaining one.

The anesthesiology department has 12 full-time equivalent staff, said Cameron. Interior Health spokeswoman Tracy Watson said there are 14 anesthesiologists in total working in the department.

Two anesthesiologists left Kamloops to work in Calgary in the fall. A third is headed overseas to teach for a year.

Cameron said locums are brought in to take the pressure off. Up until now, the department has been managing, but he anticipates some of the eight operating bays will be closed over the next five months with another set of hands gone.

"We will have to close one room to more than one room from time to time between now and the end of June," he said, adding this could continue indefinitely if the positions aren't filled.

"I don't anticipate bringing somebody on before the end of the June."

He said some of his staff have cancelled vacation time in order to compensate for the shortage.

Derrick Morris worked in the anesthesiology department until this fall, when he decided to move to Vernon. He said staff will begin to tire out if the department carries on as it has.

"They are trying to cover the jobs that have left and people will begin to burn out very quickly through that," he said.

When he worked in the hospital, no one was allowed to work longer than 12 hours a shift. Morris said it sounds like anesthesiologists are working harder and longer now.

"There's too much work and not enough anesthesiologists," he said, adding more than 50 per cent are 55 and older. "They aren't training and replacing enough."

Cameron admits administrators face some hurdles with recruiting. Pay is one of them. He said full-time anesthesiologists earn $300,000 in B.C. but can make $500,000 elsewhere in Canada.

Despite that, he's confident the effort will pay off.

"I remain optimistic," he said.

When it comes to surgical schedules, Watson said the situation will be assessed on a week-to-week basis. Hospital administrator Marg Brown told The Daily News earlier this week that she anticipates some elective surgeries will be cancelled.

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