The Thompson-Nicola Regional District will send a letter to Interior Health board members and the Ministry of Health after what many directors said was an unprofessional and disrespectful release of information about temporary health care service changes this week.
The changes were announced in a media release on Tuesday, Jan. 18. District of Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer said it was unacceptable for community leaders to find out about the changes through the media, adding it caught everyone off guard.
“We’d like to be part of the process and also part of the solution,” he said during the regular meeting on Jan. 20. “If things are occurring, we can ask questions and we can do things, instead of what we’re doing now, trying to play catch-up.”
Many board members agreed there was a lack of communication from the health authority about the changes to the health care services that affect municipalities such as the District of Barriere, District of Clearwater and the Village of Ashcroft.
Both Barriere Mayor Merlin Blackwell and Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden said the press release came out minutes before a scheduled meeting with IH.
Roden, also the editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal, added she received the press release in her media inbox, but not her mayoral one.
Furthermore, Interior Health’s communications sent out another two press releases Thursday, Jan. 20, further clarifying the service changes for the emergency department in Ashcroft, as well as Barriere’s health clinic.
“Failure to communicate with mayors, failure to communicate in a timely manner, failure to communicate when they actually communicate, in that they don’t give you actually any useful information, to the point where 36 hours later they have to clarify what they were communicating about in the first place,” Roden said during the meeting.
Board members speculated what might be the cause of the lack of communication. Blackwell suggested reaching out to the ministry to request more communications staff for the health authority, whereas director Dale Bass, a councillor with the City of Kamloops, suggested the messaging is being controlled.
She noted she’s heard stories from nurses, doctors and other health care staff at the hospital about poorly maintained equipment and short-staffed departments, as well as concerns from health care workers about speaking out.
“I think one of the issues here is that senior management controls what messages we get,” she said. “They’re terrified to say anything because they’re afraid they’ll be fired.”
Mayors added they were getting apologies from IH staff who said they weren’t allowed to speak about the announcement about the changes to services.
The board voted to send a letter to Interior Health board members and president Susan Brown, as well as the Ministry of Health.