Cold weather contributes to overcrowding at RIH

By Vanessa Ybarra
January 11, 2017 - 5:27pm Updated: January 11, 2017 - 6:26pm

KAMLOOPS — While Winter is typically the busiest time of year for the Royal Inland Hospital emergency ward this year has been particular hectic.

Right now ER staff are working overtime to keep up with the demand.

Car accidents, sports injuries, and falls on the ice make up a good portion of what is coming through the doors, and when you add seasonal flus and colds to the list it's no suprise the ER has been backlogged for weeks with no sign of slowing down.

Those rushed to the emergency ward may be uncertain of their prognosis, but more often that not there's one thing they can be guaranteed. A wait.

"At this time of the year, just past the Christmas and New Year's period, we are typically busy and that happens for a number of factors," said Kris Kristjanson, Health Service Director at Royal Inland Hospital.

The Royal Inland Hospital emergency ward has been running at overcapacity for more than three weeks.

Winter may typically be the busiest time of year, but RIH staff say flu outbreaks in the senior community has added additional pressure on the system.

"Unfortunately there have been a number of outbreaks in the residential care facilities, both in Kamloops and outside of Kamloops, and that's impeded our ability to transfer people out of the hospital to those sites," said Kristjanson. "Typically, when we don't have an outbreak in a long-term facility, we can transfer them sooner, and we've had some delays because of both respiratory and G-I outbreaks in facilities."

Interior Health says the cities doctor shortage is also contributing to the increase in wait times.

And then, there's winter roads.

"As soon as we have snow, we have additional pressures on the emergency room," said Kristjanson.

According to Kamloops Fire Rescue, crews can respond to up to 20 MVI's in a day throughout the city when winter conditions are particularly harsh.

Along with car crashes, hospital staff says the number of sidewalk slip and fall cases also significantly spike the minute the snow hits.

To keep up with demand, some RIH staff are working overtime.

They've also added 12 additional admission beds.

"We worked this past fall to have some added capacity for admitted patients coming through the emergency room and that was by using the new Clinical Services Building and transferring our orthopedic clinic to that facility so we could open up a 12-bed overflow admission area for patients so that's actually helping really well," said Kristjanson.

With typical wait times varying from 30 minutes to hours, RIH staff say it's imperative non-emergency patients seek help from private doctors first to lighten the load in what's been another busy winter season.

"They need to speak with their primary care provider if they're looking for medical attention or call the 'Healthlink' line (8-1-1) and if they need our service please to come," added Kristjanson.

To view the HealthLink website, click here.

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