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Shortage of anesthetists affecting surgeries at RIH

If doctors would visit the city, they would realize, as he has, it’s an ideal place to live and work
Royal Inland Hospital has been re-scheduling elective surgeries due to a shortage of anesthetists.

Kamloops This Week

A shortage of anesthetists is affecting elective surgeries at Royal Inland Hospital — but the situation is not dire.

Dr. John Guy, one of about 15 anesthetists in the city, said that number of doctors isn’t sufficient to handle the schedule of surgeries, but added the impact is only being felt “a day here or there.”

No emergency surgeries are being affected, he said.

Dr. Norm Kienitz, chief of staff at RIH, said the shortage of anesthetists will lead to about 55 patients having surgeries this month postponed.

Guy, who moved to Kamloops from the U.S. three years ago, said he believes the problem is Kamloops’ reputation outside the city’s boundaries, with doctors who might relocate viewing it “more like a small town. From the outside, it doesn’t have the cachet of a Kelowna.”

But, Guy said, he believes if doctors would visit the city, they would realize, as he has, it’s an ideal place to live and work.

Health Minister Terry Lake pointed to expansion at RIH as being part of the method in attracting doctors.

“In the Kamloops versus Kelowna tradition, Kelowna tends to get more headlines and more media attention, but I think that’s changing with the investments being made at Royal Inland Hospital,” Lake said.

“That will change the conversation.”

Work continues on the new clinical-services building at the hospital and there are longer-term plans to add a surgical tower to the facility.

Lake said the “message is getting out there is a lot going on at RIH.”

He also pointed to a new contract signed with the province’s doctors that includes $68 million allocated to enhance access to speciality medical services like anesthesiology or dermatology.

“And their organization could make the argument they should have access to that money for better remuneration,” Lake said.

Kienitz agreed recruiting to a smaller community like Kamloops can be a challenge. He said the trend is for new doctors to look at large cities first, noting and the Interior Health Authority needs to recruit “to a certain type of person for whom Kamloops is a good fit.”

Guy said the Interior Health Authority “is working very hard, beating the bushes to find people” and Royal Inland Hospital is also aware of the situation and doing what it can to find new doctors.


In the meantime, locums (fill-in doctors) are being brought in to provide some relief.