REPORTING · 28th December 2009
Saturday morning, December 6th, the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group met at the Chalet for breakfast. The talk kept drifting back to one topic throughout the meeting and although the matter is proceeding, the implications of the discussion are of interest to the community.
For the moment, Kitimat is short one Chemotherapist. For people who have been offered the opportunity to take their Chemotherapy in Kitimat, this is a potential nightmare. The problem is that one of the side effects from Chemotherapy is fatigue. Suddenly faced with having to take the treatment in Terrace, patients are faced with two options including potentially hazardous roads in the wintertime or an hour long bus ride while physically exhausted.
“Our Chemotherapy nurse has resigned the Kitimat position so presently, until further recruitment, training, the chemotherapy is being given in… We’ve been really lucky that they can absorb the patients that require Chemotherapy and I know our patients have been informed and offers have been informed,” said Gross .
She explained that training of a new chemotherapy nurse would take about three months, as long as the education is being offered. The next course begins in February.
The implications were not lost on the room. Mayor Joanne Monaghan asked if this process would open the door to remove Chemotherapy from the Kitimat General Hospital permanently. The NHA reps could not answer that question. Mayor Monaghan stated that she was willing to bet that this was the most likely outcome. Daphne Gross stated that she had heard nothing from NHA about changing the service.
Barb Campbell inquired how many Chemotherapy Nurses there were in Terrace. The response was one: A Chemotherapist who traveled up from Powell River. This statement set off alarm bells because it meant that there are no Chemotherapists currently in the sacred circle. However, Gross quickly explained that this was not the case, Terrace’s Chemotherapist was on vacation and the nurse filling in for her is the one that they usually use to fill in for Kitimat and Terrace.
Campbell requested that NHA put this replacement as a high priority. Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked how long this would take. The response was 3-4 months although it would take two months for those 3-4 months to arrive. He asked why they did not bring in the temp from Terrace during this time. Gross explained that since the numbers can be accommodated in Terrace, it would make budgetary sense not to do this. Councillor Feldhoff expressed that: “It’s always going in one direction.”
Ingred Hagaman pointed out that there was a trained Chemotherapist in Kitimat. The response was that the individual had every opportunity to apply for the position and the job is posted. Kitimat employees have the first shot at the job. Doctor Derek Carstens pointed out that this would be a shared job between Kitimat and Terrace and a majority of the Nurses who had an opportunity to take the job would not know how many days they would be in Kitimat and how many days they would be in Terrace. He pointed out that there were quite a few people in Kitimat who had Chemotherapy training.
Mary Montaro asked which would be more cost effective: having the nurse here or paying the ambulance to go back and forth to and from Terrace. Mayor Monaghan asked if Kitimat had to share with Terrace, why did Terrace not have to share with Kitimat. The response was that they would have to look at the subject. However, in the meantime, there was enough room in Terrace to accommodate the Kitimat patients.
Edwin Empinado had another nail to add. He pointed out that the job had to be posted for two weeks internally before it could be posted externally. The internal posting was made at the end of October but the position had never been posted externally. He stated that the job would entail 3 days in Kitimat and 2 days in Terrace. Gross promised that the job would be posted. Empinado also pointed out that the previous nurse did not want the job after the number of days in Terrace was increased from 1 to 2.
Councillor Feldhoff pointed out that the NHA was ending a policy on providing services closer to home and focusing more on the dollar. He also pointed out that, as he understood it, nurses would have to quit their current job for this position. However, he understood that there was quite a bit of uncertainty.
Campbell referred to it as: “Poor business management on behalf of NHA. We’re not only putting employees at risk but patients at risk.” She expressed disappointment and stated that she would not want to be on the roads during a snowstorm.
Councillor Rob Goffinet asked if anyone had anything new to put on the table. A question raised was how to get NHA to listen to community concerns before they make their decisions? Mayor Monaghan suggested writing a letter. Councillor Goffinet said that doctors and unions were involved in this and the KHAG table brought the issues to the community. However, there were certain policies that still have to be followed.
From there, the discussion moved into the topic of retention. The NHA representatives expressed that they were trying to retain nurses but they feared that the Eurocan announcement would affect their staff who have spouses who work for Eurocan. They were afraid that they would lose resources and it would be difficult to hire more because there was an inability for the spouses of the nurses to find work in the Sacred Circle.
After further discussion, Barb Campbell asked if the chemotherapy job would be posted. The response was that it would be posted on the Monday after the meeting.