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REPORTING · 25th February 2010
Walter McFarlane
The Meat of the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group Meeting on Saturday, February 13th was discussion on the Health Care issues in the community.  Northern Health Representatives were unable to attend the meeting but Jonathan Cooper, Site Manager of the Kitimat General Hospital had sent a letter which Councillor Rob Goffinet, Chair of the meeting read.

The letter explained that Cooper had received a promotion to Health Services Administrator.  This would clarify his reporting structure and responsibilities.  “It’s good news for Kitimat General Hospital.  There is more senior representation of the site and the community needs and a greater liaison with Northern Health Senior Management and executive members.  It draws together the operational, community and strategic roles,” read Goffinet.

The letter continued, explaining that Northern Health Authority (NHA) has been working with the interagency committee formed to respond to the Eurocan Closure.  NHA has been advising health and social related aspects of the closure.

The next subject was staffing.  “Two experienced new international registered nurses are now being oriented to acute care in Kitimat General Hospital.  One of them has both Maternity and Emergency Room Experience and skills.  One local registered nurse has been recruited into the regular acute care position.  Two regular LPNs have been recruited into acute care.  Emergency room nurse training is progressing well with three nurses with ongoing support that has been requested and highlighted at the November community meeting.  There is still a need for nurses with Maternity skills on a long term basis.  Agency nurses are being contracted ” read Goffinet.

Goffinet added where some of the nurses are from and that he has heard that Cooper expects there to be a staffing problem in the near future as several nurses are retiring.  As for the Chemotherapist, Goffinet stated that: “The Chemo person is on site being trained.  […] She is being integrated into the hospital and then she’s got to leave for Prince George for these modules on Chemo,” said Goffinet.

According to Goffinet, the Cancer Society has visited Kitimat facilities to do an oncology report.  When the report comes back, he hopes it will say that having the chemotherapist stationed in Kitimat is positive.  A similar report has been done on all the surgeons and operating rooms in Northern BC.  This report could say that Surgeons could be better utilized elsewhere.

The hospital is looking at the issues of training operating room nurses and is currently meeting with nurses to make improvements to the working environment within the hospital.  The latter was an issue brought up by Mike Dray in the meeting. 

“There is no doubt that morale is still down and I don’t care what [NHA] says, you only have to talk to the young nurses and they will tell you clear that they don’t want to be there.  They don’t want to work there, they don’t enjoy going to work and it is reflective on the care of the patient,” said Dray.

He cited a case where a patient did not receive necessary treatment.  According to Dray, the nurses have to worry about going over the budget.  Parsons pointed out that this is a provincial problem.  “The entire system is ill and not functioning so we need to find a solution,” said Parsons.

Dray suggested that hospital management talk to nurses and patients about how they feel.  A talk broke out about improving healthcare.  One person suggested that hospitals network with overseas hospital which use different methods to reduce administration costs. 

Councillor Bob Corless stated that one does not have to go overseas to find health care.  When he needs hospital time, he goes to Alberta which is more efficient.  He explained how the hospital system works in Calgary.

Dray stated that although the surgery staff in Kitimat is second to none, the problem lies in the nursing staff.  Trish Parsons who represented the Chamber of Commerce pointed out that there is no problem with money in Alberta for hospitals.  Froess pointed out that people from Terrace come here for better care so this problem varies from case to case and location to location.  Goffinet wished to get a response to the incident.

Corless wrapped up this conversation that the area from Rupert to George has a low population which he estimated at 192,000 people with about 6 hospitals.  He stated this is a huge expense per person due to the vast area.  He added he was amazed about Northern Health's ability to deal with this.

The letter concluded with a mention the February meeting: see here.

Earlier in the meeting, the community members spoke about the topics of the NHA Board Member Candidate proposal and the Max Lange Endoscope.  So far, everyone who has been approached by the committee for nomination to the Board of NHA has respectfully declined.

Ingrin Hagemann wished to know why other communities were able to find someone to sit on the NHA Board of Directors and Kitimat was having such a hard time.  Goffinet stated that most of the board members are members of their communities who have held community leadership positions. 

Luella Froess explained when the NHA was founded there were supposed to be 2 board members from Kitimat, 2 board members from Terrace.  Kitimat had two reps including Dr. Cooper.  However, when Cooper left the community, nobody replaced him.

Goffinet was pleased to announce the Endoscope has been purchased and half of the equipment is now onsite at the hospital.  However, one component is still en route to Kitimat.  Barb Campbell wanted to know the delay.  Goffinet explained it was the suppliers.  A representative of the Hospital Auxiliary said equipment takes a while to come in but Dray was not impressed by the delay.  He stated it took a Surgeon threatening to quit at the Prince Rupert Hospital before their equipment was updated.

Campbell also pointed out Vancouver Island has been made a haven for breast cancer treatment with 6 digital mammography units while there is not one found in the entire north.  She wanted to know why they were getting all of this investment and equipment.  Councillor Bob Corless stated this was due to our riding not being a Liberal one.  Goffinet considered this to be an NHA issue as Prince George and the Peace River also do not have these services and they have: “Powerful powerful cabinet ministers.”

Trish Parsons, who represented the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce pointed out there was no Society here which could raise funds or apply for grants for special equipment.  This came up later in the meeting.  Campbell stated the people should have the same access to healthcare here as everyone else has in British Columbia.

“It increases your quality of Life,” said Campbell.  “We should expect nothing different than those who live on the island or one hundred miles away from the American Boarder.  We shouldn’t have to fight for all of this.”  She suggested moving Kitimat to Vancouver Island.