At Monday night’s Castlegar city council meeting, IHA Community Area Director Linda Basran apologized to council for the Castlegar Health Centre Emergency Room closure on Feb. 4.
“I want to be clear – none of this was intentional,” she said to council and about a dozen spectators including a few dressed as wounded patients. “The reality was we had a situation in Castlegar that we weren’t prepared for. We have never had an emergency room closure in Castlegar before and when we did on Feb. 4, a number of steps failed along the way. Basically, the right information did not get to the right people in a timely manner. This is meant as an explanation not an excuse.”
Basran explained the details leading up to the closure of the ER and talked about what Interior Health has done to address the shortfalls made clear by the incident.
“Interior Health became aware of a vacant shift on Friday evening, Feb. 3, when one of the two RN shifts had inadvertently not been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4,” she said. “At that point, calls were made to try and fill this shift. We were able to secure staffing for the morning, but were unable to fill the afternoon and evening shift. All efforts were made to fill this shift including calls to 14 casual employees.”
Basran pointed out that casual employees have the “opportunity – not obligation – to pick up those shifts”.
“When it became clear we didn’t have a second RN available, the decision was made to close the site,” she said. “Unfortunately, information did not flow to all key personnel within Interior Health including communications who would have supported the distribution of this information to the community.”
After her presentation, Basran took questions from council. Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff asked how many full time RN’s Castlegar had and if IHA planned to hire any more. “We have 14 casual staff and our regular staff includes 2.5 FTEs, which is full-time equivalent,” answered Basran.
“So we have two RNs on for 12 hour shifts, plus another half-time person.”
“Do you think two and a half full-time RNs is enough in case one of them gets sick?” asked Heaton-Sherstobitoff.
Councillor Russ Hearne asked Basran: “Who’s decision was it to close the ER? Who ultimately made the decision?”
“I would think a number of people did from the medical staff that were on, the nursing staff, and the frontline people who were there,” she said.
Hearne pressed for a name of a high ranking IHA official who made the final decision on the closure but was rebuked.
“In this particular case there wasn’t clear communication to the administrator on call,” said Basran. “In all fairness, we were in the wrong in terms of how this closure was handled. I hope we have done our due diligence to make sure that everybody ever to be associated with what goes on in this community knows their roles, knows where to take it, and knows all the numbers. I hope that helps without divulging individual staff member’s names because I don’t think that ever buys us anything.”
In an interview with the Castlegar News, Hearne said he was disappointed at not being able to talk to the person at IHA responsible for the closure decision.
“I thought it was nice that someone came and offered the apology,” said Hearne. “It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to talk to the person who made the decision to explain their rationale. So we would have a chance to ask the tough questions for them. I thought it was a bit disrespectful in that the decision makers weren’t here. We weren’t even provided with the name of who it was. I didn’t expect much more than an apology. I know they can’t go back in time and redo it. We have to work to make sure in the future we don’t get this again.
I think IHA has to do a better job to make sure they can cover it. With hospitals in Trail and Nelson and a health centre in Castlegar, we should be able to find the staff to do it. I respect that people get sick and injured and aren’t able to be there. But they have to have coverage. I think not having it is unacceptable.”