British Columbia

Frustration grows among patients as shortages, postponed surgeries mount at Kamloops hospital

The hospital is besieged with staff shortages, a high number of patients, and numerous COVID-19 outbreaks.

Royal Inland Hospital director says anyone in need of urgent care should still come to emergency department

Jackie Paul recorded a Facebook video this weekend from her bed in Royal Inlands Hospital in Kamloops, B.C. She has been waiting for over a month for a surgery to amputate her leg. (Jackie Paul/Facebook)

Challenges related to staff shortages, postponed surgeries, bed shortages and numerous COVID-19 outbreaks have worsened at Kamloops' Royal Inland Hospital, the only tertiary acute care facility in the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap area, and some patients are at their wits' end.

Patient Jackie Paul, 63, has been waiting in the hospital for an amputation surgery since Oct 19.

"I just wanted someone to be able to cut my leg off and let's just get healing and let's go from there," Paul said. 

She says staff shortages and surgery postponements have worsened her condition dramatically. On top of that, Paul was one of the patients caught in the hospital's four COVID-19 outbreaks. She took to Facebook to record her desperation. 

"I woke up that morning thinking this was over. I'm not going to make it out of here. And I am pissed right off. Right? Then, I've been double vaccinated. Tested negative. Whole fricking hospital has had COVID … now I'm positive for COVID for Chrissakes," she said in tears to CBC's Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

Paul's hospital roommate, Barry Powers is also in a great deal of discomfort, says his wife Glenda Powers.

"He was supposed to have surgery right away but nine days later, he phoned me at home begging to get him out of there," Powers said. 

Both Paul and Powers commended the staff at the hospital, who they say are being pushed to their limits. 

"I'm seeing nurses that are run off their feet and doctors that are trying to get things done but there's such a shortage of doctors … Barry's surgeon, I don't know how that man has a life beyond that hospital," said Powers.

'Real and fundamental challenges'

In his press conference Tuesday Adrian Dix said that Royal Inland Hospital has faced "real and fundamental challenges."

"To put it in context, Royal Inland is the only hospital whose current population is above base and surge capacity. Base capacity at Royal Inland is 259, surge capacity is 20, and the current patient population 292," Dix said. 

Tracey Rannie, the executive director of Royal Inland Hospital, said the hospital is going through "a difficult time" but declined to comment on these specific patients' concerns. 

"We had the wildfire season. We had the third wave [of COVID-19], we had these outbreaks … and we had flooding now in our local community. It has put a strain on our hospital and the personal lives of our staff," Rannie said. 

"We've been under a lot of pressure and there's no easy solution, but we're committed to working together with everyone to move forward."

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops is shown in a long-distance photograph, standing in front of a scrubby hillside.
Royal Inland Hospital is pictured in Kamloops, B.C. on Saturday, June 5, 2021. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the hospital is the only one in the province exceeding its base and surge bed capacity. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Rannie said teams are working hard to fill staffing vacancies, adding that they were working with regional post-secondary institutions for recruitment. In his comments, Dix noted that 89 staff — registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and health assistants — had been hired at the hospital since Sept. 13. 

Rannie said she still wanted to assure patients that anyone needing urgent care should continue to come to the emergency department.

"We have the best staff and I know they'll continue to provide the best care possible," she said. 

For patients like Paul and Powers, relief could not come soon enough.

"It's not just about me. It's about the beautiful people who are here trying to do the next right thing," said Paul. "There's a lot of people suffering in this hospital."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops