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LETTER: Be kind, be patient - Hospital staff doing what they can

Letter to the editor
Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater is one of several Interior Health care centres impacted by service reductions. (File photo)

To the people of Clearwater and the North Thompson,

People in Clearwater have been understandably upset and concerned about closures of the Dr Helmcken Hospital Emergency Department and diversion of inpatients from our acute care.

The most important thing for the public to know is this: None of our staff — physicians, nurses, care aids, paramedics, lab technicians, x-ray technicians, administration — want our hospital closed.

The flip side to this is that we want our patients to be safe. That is what these closures have come from - the inability to provide safe patient care with the staffing levels available at the time of those closures.

Closing the ER is never something taken lightly. You can be sure that any time a closure happens, we have exhausted every avenue of trying to keep it open and safe. This starts with automated call outs from central staffing in Kamloops when a shift is not filled. Within minutes of this happening, our on site staff is calling the other staff that are not already on shift. We look at shifting the existing staff on shift in the periods of short staffing to maintain health care services and safe patient care.

Our staff has gone above and beyond to fill these vacancies wherever humanly possible. Most of our staff work overtime to fill these gaps. They come in to cover shifts on days off. They come in to cover shifts when they are on a few days vacation that has been booked for over a year. They stay late after their current shifts.

But it is important to remember: Our staff are human.

A person cannot work every day of the week. A person cannot work 24 hours and then start their scheduled 12 hour shift without any break. A person cannot be expected to never have a break to see their children or their partner or their parents. A person cannot be denied time to take care of their own health.

The staffing crisis is bigger and more complex than “hiring more staff” to fill these gaps. Health care in our area, province, and country are in crisis. This goes well beyond the COVID 19 pandemic; the pandemic just highlighted some of these chronic issues. There is no simple solution for this but be assured we are constantly working to find solutions, to improve our staffing levels, and continue to provide safe and quality care to the patients of the North Thompson.

Ways the public can help:

- Be kind, be patient. The nurse at the door or the receptionist on the phone is not at fault

- Use the emergency room for emergencies, not convenience. Consider what can wait

- Take care of your health

- Speak to your MLA about the state of health care and push for change

Dr. Kara Perdue, a concerned physician and community member

YCS Health Centre/Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital

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