bc-091028-bc-surgery

Hospitals in B.C. have been cutting surgeries because of funding restrictions. ((CBC))

Some B.C. doctors in the Kootenays are offering to pay out of their own pockets to keep nurses in operating rooms.

Three operating-room nurse positions are being cut at the Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, located in the southeastern area of the province, and hospital surgeons fear they'll lose up to a quarter of their operating time.

Dr. Ian Grant, an anesthesiologist at the hospital that serves 80,000 residents of the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar area, called the situation "a medical crisis."

"We are better off if we pay the nurses out of our own pocket than to lose this OR time," he told CBC News.

'We have become incapacitated as a regional hospital.' — Dr. Cheryl Hume

The doctors have also written the health minister stating they have lost faith in the Interior Health Authority, which runs the region's hospitals.

Dr. Cheryl Hume, the acting president of the hospital's medical advisory committee, called IHA's plan a "catastrophe."

"We have become incapacitated as a regional hospital," she said.

"I have grave concerns about Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital's capacity to function and no confidence in Interior Health."

Questions raised in legislature

NDP MLA Katrine Conroy brought up the doctors' radical plan during question period in the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Wednesday.

"These doctors are taking it upon themselves by paying for the nurses themselves ... by actually taking the money out of their own pockets," Conroy told the legislature.

"The doctors are saying, 'We can't lose these nurses. We'll pay for them if this is what we have to do.' This is what doctors have to do to provide service for patients in the Kootenays," Conroy said.

Health Minister Kevin Falcon acknowledged the layoffs in the legislature on Wednesday, but said the situation at the Kootenay-Boundary hospital is under control.

Tight funding by the provincial government has forced many B.C. hospitals to scale back many services in recent years, including surgeries, to meet annual budgets.