Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors agreed unanimously to turn up the heat on demands for improvements to Shuswap Lake General Hospital at the Sept. 14 board meeting in Salmon Arm.
The issue was returned to the table in the form of a response to a letter from Sicamous Mayor Colleen Anderson sent to Interior Health Authority Board Chair Doug Cochrane.
In her Aug. 9 letter, Anderson reiterated doctors’ concerns recently presented to the City of Salmon Arm and CSRD and asked that funding be restored to modernize Shuswap Lake General Hospital as well as “much-needed” infrastructure improvements.
Anderson referenced a 2006 master site utilization plan that was submitted to IH, consisting of three planned phases to be completed by 2010. She also reminded Cochrane that the hospital had been approved for $1 million in funding In June 2022 for the operating room redesign planning phase.
“It is unfortunate that in October of 2022, the project was downgraded to ill-defined operating room renovations, and all other complementary projects were cancelled,” wrote Anderson.
“In recent years, Shuswap Lake General Hospital has experienced reduced intensive care unit capacity which negatively impacts other departments,” she added, noting outdated infrastructure reduces the quality of care, limits healthcare staff recruitment and increases the risk of total service elimination. “The need for infrastructure improvements at Shuswap Lake General Hospital has only grown since the master site utilization plan was adopted and then abandoned.”
In her Aug. 16 response on behalf of the board, IH president and CEO Susan Brown acknowledged that SLGH is an older site in need of attention to support the population into the future and that the master site plan undertaken in the late 2000s provided helpful information on how the complex site could be expanded in ways that made sense for the internal flow of patients and staff.
In line with addressing previous complaints from local governments, Brown reiterated that IH is in the process of addressing urgent issues immediately with others in the active planning phase.
“The operating room project is underway and will provide state-of-the-art operating capability for physicians and a high standard of equipment and much-needed space enabling accommodation of all technology advancements we may see in the future,” wrote Brown. “No funding has been removed, in fact, it has been enhanced to ensure the operating room project stays ahead of the construction inflation that we are all seeing on building projects at present.”
However, CSRD directors are seeking more action and definite timelines.
At the September board meeting, Anderson called the letter “interesting” and said she would like to see the board become more aggressive in demands for improvements.
Salmon Arm councillor and representative on the regional district board Tim Lavery said Brown’s letter missed the mark and did not address concerns Dr. Scott McKee recently presented to both the CSRD and the City of Salmon Arm.
He advised directors that he and Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison have asked McKee to provide a letter listing the issues SLGH doctors wish to have addressed.
“What we asked for, and what he committed to, was to put down a very succinct statement of not only what himself and his colleagues within the critical care unit need, but what they are worried about and which what was omitted from the original capital budget request without any feedback saying it was omitted,” Lavery said, “He’s going to put in writing the consensus of his team of doctors as well as the larger team of surgeons to present to us so that we have something we can work with.”
Lavery suggested the letter be discussed at the next board meeting to see if there is consensus among the board members to use it as a platform to take to the regional hospital board.
“The City of Salmon Arm will be doing something similar,” he added.
In response to a question about whether the role of advocating for the hospital should come from the regional district or the North Okanagan Shuswap Hospital District, CSRD Chief Administrative Officer John MacLean suggested both avenues are appropriate.