Broken bones must wait as ER closes

Two Kamloops anesthesiologists say the loss of an evening emergency operating room at Royal Inland Hospital is forcing some patients with broken bones to wait for days before they get surgery.

Dr. Derrick Morris and Dr. Dan Maher said Wednesday the operating room was used on a few weekday evenings to get rid of the backlog of emergency cases not involving life and limb. Kamloops still has an emergency OR during the daytime.

"IHA found it costly to run, so they closed it down. We have none. We used to have one that ran here three nights a week. They have to pay operating costs for it," Maher said.

Morris, who has been on a leave of absence since May, has done a few shifts lately at RIH.

"Yesterday, there were six pages - over 30 cases - of emergencies. We have one room that does emergencies," he said.

Without the extra operating room open at night, some patients will have to wait days to get broken bones fixed, he said.

"This took a lot of the pressure off the emergency list."

Maher said Kelowna General Hospital still has five emergency operating rooms open on weeknights.

But the vice-president of tertiary services for Interior Health said Kelowna only has two operating rooms going on weeknights, and none during the day.

Joanne Konnert said the Kamloops evening operating room was closed early this year not just for financial reasons, but also because of a shortage of anesthesiologists.

"It wasn't efficient. But we did add some time in during the day," she said.

"So currently we can run an emergency room from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. But because we have a shortage of anesthetists, we can only run it from noon to 11 p.m. If we had more anesthetists, we could start in the morning."

Konnert said IHA has offered to support recruitment efforts to attract more anesthesiologists to Kamloops.

"We could run the emergency room an additional four hours, but we can't because of anesthesia. . . . If it was doable in Kamloops, I'd be happy to accommodate them. Because we have the staff to run it from 8 to 12."

If the anesthesiologists come, the operating room hours will open up for more emergency cases, she said.

"The plan is once they have staffing back up to snuff, we'll look at running the room from 8 to midnight."

The head of anesthesiology at Royal Inland, Maher said at least two more anesthesiologists are needed. Two left last fall and another departed recently to work in Kelowna.

The situation at RIH isn't helping attract anesthesiologists to the community, especially since they are a specialty in demand across Canada and beyond.

Morris said he's felt IHA hasn't supported Royal Inland's surgical program, and that has affected recruitment efforts for new doctors.

"In order to attract us, they have to not just pay us well, but treat us well."

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