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REPORTING · 10th January 2010
Walter McFarlane
Staffing was a topic brought up at the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group on January 9th. Jonathon Cooper, Hospital Site Manager delivered a report on what has been going on in the Hospital.

The first bit of news was good news. “We have two new nurses arriving within the next four weeks. We haven’t got a specific date of arrival but we are confident that they will be arriving with in the next four weeks. The best international Nurses and the Best experienced Nurses. One from Barbados, one from Nigeria. They have a good range of skills between them. […] They are coming to Kitimat, Good for the facility and good for our staffing,” said Cooper.

He explained that they have a mandate to reduce the amount of Agency Staff so staffing levels should be improving over 2010. He explained that using agency staff in a staffing crisis was expensive. He added that nurses were coming up to speak to him and one of the problems that they are having is that many experienced nurses are getting ready to retire while others are starting to be hired.

He moved on to the topic of a Chemotherapist. Before, they can hire a new chemotherapist, there has to be a BC Cancer Care Agency to carry out an inspection on the program. They will look at the program, the delivery, safety issues, practice and other topics.

Dr. Derrick Carstens inquired how long it will be until the Chemotheripist is hires. Cooper replied that it depends on when they get the report back and when the training is completed. Dr. Carstens also stated that he was worried that they have stopped the service during this time. Cooper replied that there were safety concerns. He added that they do want to sustain the service and make certain that people can access the service, even if it involves a short trip to Terrace rather then a 6 hour drive.

Barb Campbell wanted to know how many applicants there were. Cooper replied that there were several, he was not certain how many although he suggested that there were at least two. She asked him for assurance that chemo treatments will be delivered in Kitimat so that patients do not have to travel back and forth from Terrace. She requested that chemo be made a priority.

She was also concerned that the specialists could move the program to Terrace. Cooper stated that they will look at the aspects of the service and a decision could be made by a higher level. Cooper stated that Northern Health wants people to be able to have access to quality. Campbell was worried that access in Kitimat was not a priority. Cooper added that this process does relate to how the patients feel as well.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked about a time line for the report, Cooper stated it would be a couple of months. Feldhoff pointed out that there was 3 months needed for training last month and now the time line was increasing. Cooper stated that the recruiting and the training of the Nurses would not be affected by the report.

Trish Parsons from the Chamber of Commerce asked if they could have a guarantee that the service will remain in Kitimat. Cooper stated that they were unable to do so at this time, they would have to wait for the recommendation of the report. He stated that this was not a black and white issue, they would look at all aspects including what would be better for the community.

The conversation then moved into ideas that were thinking outside the box. Cooper turned down one idea, bringing in a specialist from down south while they recruit because that is not how things work. It was suggested that cancer in Kitimat is reaching epidemic levels.

Campbell stated that she was worried that with Eurocan’s announced closure, that services will be shifting due to a population drop. “I will fight to the bitter end to have Chemo in Kitimat. If it means losing other resources, we’ll do it,” said Campbell.

Cooper assured her that Kitimat is a growth area for long term care. They want to retain services in Kitimat regardless of population. It comes back to the issue of primary health. The aging population is a priority. Campbell then inquired about a second nurse for the Emergency Room. Cooper stated a part of the problem is that they need to reduce the amount of people coming into the ER for things that are not emergencies.