British Columbia

Staff shortage forces Kamloops hospital to move some patients to Kelowna

Four patients were moved from Royal Inland Hospital this weekend because of a staff shortage. The hospital's pediatric and obstetric units were temporarily closed.

Limited medical staff availability has been a recurring issue at the B.C. Interior hospital

Four patients were moved from Royal Inland Hospital this weekend because of a staff shortage. The hospital's pediatric and obstetric units were temporarily closed. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

When Arian Macaulay and her newborn son were admitted to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, B.C., last week she never imagined their stay would be cut short because of the hospital's staff shortage. 

But on Saturday, Macaulay was told she and her son, Koen, were being moved by ambulance to Kelowna General Hospital about 167 kilometres away because there were no nurses to work on the ward. 

"We were pretty shocked," she told host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.

The pair had been admitted to hospital after contracting respiratory syncytial virus during a C-section delivery, Macaulay said. She was told they would need to stay in the hospital for treatment for about a week. 

Macaulay and baby Koen were among four patients the health authority moved to alternate health facilities on the weekend because of what it says was an "unforeseen" limited medical staff availability. The staff shortage led to the temporary closure of Royal Inland Hospital's pediatric and obstetric units.

Arian Macaulay says Interior Health moved her and her newborn son to Kelowna General Hospital on Saturday. (Winston Szeto/CBC)

"A number of patients were moved to alternate units within RIH and four were transferred to alternate facilities," the authority wrote in an emailed statement to CBC News. "We recognize this can be concerning for those impacted, and we apologize to these individuals and their loved ones for any additional stress or inconvenience this caused."

The statement doesn't explain the reason for the staff shortage, but since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the hospital has been plagued with staff shortages, as many nurses have reportedly left because of stress and burnout. 

'Shocked' at move to Kelowna

Macaulay says she gave birth to Koen on April 27 at Royal Inland Hospital and was discharged two days later, but they returned to the hospital last Tuesday because of their shared respiratory illness. 

She says hospital staff told her Saturday evening they needed to move her and her son to Kelowna immediately because there wouldn't be nurses working on her ward until Monday morning.

Macaulay says Interior Health transferred her and Koen in an ambulance to Kelowna, with a stopover in Merritt. The pair was discharged from Kelowna General Hospital on Tuesday morning, but instead of taking an ambulance home, she says the health authority instructed her to arrange her own transportation.

Her husband drove her and Koen home on Tuesday afternoon, she said. 

Baby Koen and his mother were being treated for respiratory syncytial virus when they were moved from Kamloops to Kelowna by ambulance. (Submitted by Arian Macaulay)

Macaulay says she was satisfied with KGH's medical services, but doesn't appreciate Interior Health's decision to move her from Kamloops while the hospital continues to accept patients from neighbouring municipalities.

"We've had a big wake-up call of how bad it is," she said. "When all these little communities are feeding into Kamloops, Kamloops can't even keep up [with] what they have and they're sending theirs to Kelowna."

"At what point does this get addressed? And where do we go from here?"

Interior Health said in a statement that its hospitals work as a network, and occasionally it will move patients to alternate health facilities after consultation with attending physicians. 

The authority says Royal Inland Hospital reopened its obstetric unit on Sunday and its pediatric unit on Monday.

With files from Jenifer Norwell and Daybreak South

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