REPORTING · 23rd November 2010
The Kitimat Health Advocacy Group was crowded with people on Saturday, November 13th. The meat of the meeting consisted of a report from Jonathan Cooper, Hospital Site Manager, who was not present. The people who attended discussed each point. The Chair, Rob Goffinet did his best to combine related topics.
“Despite historical fears in the community, Northern Health is committed to continued on going investment in Kitimat General Hospital and Health Centre,” read Goffinet from Cooper’s report.
The first point set off alarm bells in the meeting. Luella Froess expressed concern that NHA was removing items piece by piece and cutting staff. “They are hiring more management and letting go at the bottom. If that’s not trying to close down our hospital, what is?”
The meeting also talked about historical fears revolving around health care in the community. It was suggested the fears were left over from an official review from 2004, the Sullivan Report. The report which suggested the Hospital have reduced capacity with services being moved to Terrace. The report was so controversial, it was never acted upon.
The next point recognized the services which were offered in the community. This list included community care, acute care and extended care in the hospital. This was followed by recognition of the aging population and the multiple health needs. The group argued: if the Kitimat Council wished to propose Kitimat as a retirement destination, NHA needs to be on board as the services the retirement population depended on cannot be reduced.
Goffinet stated Council has approached NHA petitioning them to allow Council to look at the future capital developments for the Kitimat Hospital contained in their five year plan. Council also wishes to see future capital construction of Extended Care / Long Term Care beds in the community.
The next point was on Primary Health Care, which is seen by NHA as programs which allow potential patients to live healthier lives and thus preventing the need for them to visit a hospital. It was pointed out the community is not certain what NHA means when they say Primary Health Care.
One doctor who was present suggested Primary Health care involved general practitioner capacities, examination of patients, x-ray, admission of patients and treatment. Primary Health Care as a concept can be run out of any Nursing Station or Small Hospital. Beyond Primary Health Care are Specialist Services that anchor a full service hospital like Kitimat General Hospital.
The next point delved into was that patients require access to emergency, home and community health care services. Goffinet pointed out this was the focus of the KHAG.
Discussion moved quickly on to the Chemotherapy treatment which reopened in September which included new services; Counselling and Social Work services. It was stated if the community and the medical community specifically did not react the way they did, the chemotherapy program would have ended in Kitimat. Now, because of a clear community response, Chemo has been reinstated and is running in Kitimat once again.
It was also suggested this issue, amongst others, has caused difficulties in communication between Kitimat Medical Staff and the hospital’s administrator, Mr. Cooper.
Goffinet stated working hard for the hospital services was the BC Nurses Union Representative, Edwin Empinado, who had sent his regrets for missing the meeting but added the following message:
“The fundamental problems we are dealing with in the hospital revolve around a lack of transparent, trusting and collegial communications. When a decision is being thought out, it is not [being done] through consultation with the affected parties.”
It was expressed people needed to be consulted before the decisions are made, not afterwards.
The next point was about plans for a 5 day a week Adult Day Care which is the final stages of development. This program will provide social activities, rehabilitation, health care, supervision, meals, bathing and personal care. It will allow people to remain within their homes in the community and should be running in spring, 2011.
“There are no plans on any agenda to close KGH and Health Centre or Mountain View Lodge. There are no plans on any agenda to close or reduce the Emergency Department,” said Goffinet reading the next point.
This made a few people at the table uncomfortable as it did not mention the Lab, ultrasound, physiotherapy, surgery, etc.
This brought the meeting back to the issue of acute care beds. While approving the minutes of the previous meeting, this was brought up. The minutes discussed the potential Multilevel Care patients taking up acute care beds because it could take years for them to get into Multilevel Care.
It was explained these patients enter the hospital. When they are discharged, they have two choices because Multilevel Care is full. Either they return home where they are supported by families, friends and non existent home support services or remain in the hospital in Acute Care.
The problem is 3-6 of the acute beds are taken up by long care patients leaving less beds for acute care patients. On a similar note, seniors are being transferred to Terrace in some instances because there are no placements in Kitimat. It was also mentioned there are patients who have started decorating their hospital rooms because they have been there for a year.
This lead to further questions about the cuts in and around the hospital, especially those which were explained as cost savings. These included the laying off of the ultrasound technician, which appears to brings more money into the hospital then it costs. The cutting of the Ultrasound technician was discussed in great detail. This cut was implemented immediately following a Medical Advisory Meeting of doctors. The cut was not brought up during this meeting. Doctors only became aware after the layoff notice to delete the Ultrasound position was delivered to the medical technician involved.
Medical staff sent letters to all top NHA officials protesting the decision to delete the ultrasound the Ultrasound Technician position without involving the medical staff of KGH. This lead to a reversal of the Ultrasound deletion decision.
Discussion over cost savings also revolved around the replacement of lab equipment. Doctors were concerned the new lab equipment would only be capable a fraction of the work the older equipment did.
Doctors who have looked into the older lab equipment found out this equipment will remove seven critical tests which generated money for the hospital in excess of the cost of maintaining and operating the older equipment.
These cost saving measures were another part of the difficulties in communications and trust between the medical staff and NHA administrating. This was seen workload being shifted from one community to the next resulting in no cost savings.
Other comments came from the table. Tests are being sent far away from Kitimat slowing down the process, quality and results. There have been 6 cases of patients not getting lab results in a timely manner and this is now under review.
Kitimat’s lab was once evaluated as in the top three in British Columbia. Equipment which was purchased through the Max Lange Fund for the lab is hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by Kitimat which is sitting their gathering dust.
Goffinet sped through funding and equipment purchases for the lab. Goffinet suggested inviting Rio Tinto Alcan and Bechtel about having a representative to sit at the table with them and discuss the needs of developing industrial needs in medical care.
Corinne Scott, who was attending the meeting, said she was in Fort McMurry when a big industrial decision was made which increase the size of the municipality. A large group was formed with every group at the table to discuss and plan the impacts of the growth in the community. She wanted to know if this idea would work in Kitimat bringing industry and healthcare and Council to the same table.
Someone pointed out a majority of these groups were at KHAG table, are on the table or are wanted at the table.
Goffinet quickly finished the report. The Hospital Social Worker is now up to speed, further consultation is planed with the Haisla Health Center new manager. Improvement to handicapped areas and discussions for a Hospital Foundation were successful came up next and were discussed later at the meeting.
Action items from the NHA Consultation meetings over the summer are being worked on including a Heath Fair in 2011, discussions with local faith groups for spiritual care services and finally: the Northwest Surgical Services Review is now available on the Northern Health Website.
Comment by Daniel Carter on 25th November 2010
There does not seem to be any public mention of the hardships that the support workers are going through. There are cuts to these areas in the name of cutting costs. Most of these support workers are the backbone of the health system and they deserve a little recognition to what is being cut from them as well.