Letter to Susan Brown, CEO Interior Health Authority regarding cuts to rural healthcare announcement – January 20, 2022

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Attn: Susan Brown

CEO Interior Health Authority

Re: Interior Health adjusting services to strengthen patient safety

Dear Ms. Brown,

I am writing on behalf of the BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN) which represents the voice of rural British Columbians on healthcare across BC. 

The announcement on Tuesday has raised concerns and anxiety for rural residents in the Interior Health Region.  The communities immediately and initially impacted by the changes are voicing these concerns.  You have acknowledged “We will resume normal operations in impacted communities as soon as possible and in the meantime, we are temporarily reassigning and redeploying staff to sustain essential services throughout the region.” It is also recognized that all served by the Interior Health Authority will be impacted by changes to services in elective surgery and other treatments.  Our membership does have questions:

1. Why have all the reductions of inpatient care and hours of critical care operation only occurred in rural BC?

2. Why have the changes been made specifically in rural BC?  Is this due to health impacts of Covid-19 in rural BC, or are rural staff being transferred from rural to urban to provide services?

3. What is the current rate of Covid-19 infection in IHA healthcare staff and what is the prognosis and projection of impacts moving forward?

4. How are you measuring/monitoring rural health impacts with these changes?  

5. Why is Interior Health Authority not ensuring that New Denver, Ashcroft and Barriere are provided with essential healthcare as a priority in the delivery of service? 

The BCRHN have directed our membership to follow the https://www.interiorhealth.ca/temporary-service-changes  page to understand impacts to them specifically and as they unfold.  However, the BCRHN believes that most residents do not receive information from the Health Authority and that the exchange of information must improve between the IHA and rural BC.  The limited ability for authorities to reach most rural residents is a major concern for the BCRHN and for all rural residents.  The BCRHN would like to assist the IHA and the Province in reaching more rural residents and believe our grassroots nature creates that ability.  We need support and we need immediate answers to be effective in communication between authorities and residents, we want to help.

Our membership includes communities and mayors directly impacted by the decisions made regarding the communities listed in the release.  In addition, the residents who reside outside of these communities and are unrepresented and also need crucial information to manage their emergency medical needs.  

The BCRHN is committed to ensuring fair and equitable health outcomes and healthcare provision across our Province and acts in the best interest of rural residents at all times.  The BCRHN understands we are in exceptional times and that crisis management is not easy.  We are not here to cause problems but to create solutions, and we ask that you respond to this letter no later than Friday January 21st, in turn we can respond to our membership before the weekend.  We are concerned that there was no consultation prior to your decisions.  

The BCRHN is the healthcare voice of the rural residents of British Columbia and seeks better health outcomes for all people, through solutions-based approaches with governments, and information provision to residents.

 Yours in Health and Wellness,

Paul Adams

Administrator

250-438-0080

Cc: \ Ed Staples, Colin Moss, Peggy Skelton, Leonard Casley, Ted Patterson, Mayor Ferguson, Mayor Casley, Mayor Zeleznik, Mayor Busse, Mayor Stamer, Mayor Blackwell, Mayor Miller

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Reply from Interior Health, received on January 21, 2022

January 20, 2022

Paul Adams

BC Rural Health Network PO Box 257

Princeton, BC VOX 1W0

Sent via email:  paul.bcrhn@amail.com 

Dear Mr. Adams,

Thank you for your letter dated January 20, 2022 and for your advocacy on behalf of the BC Rural Health Network.

As you are aware, COVID-19 and the Omicron wave have significantly increased staffing pressures across Interior Health. To protect the safety of patients and clients and to keep essential health services open, swift action was necessary. All of the changes made this week are designed to prioritize access to emergency and urgent care, and we are committed to returning to regular operations as quickly as possible.

I can assure you that service reductions are in place region-wide: all non-urgent surgeries are being postponed, along with reductions in outpatient clinics and adult day programs. That said, I’m pleased to say that since Tuesday, we have already been able to clarify and reduce some of the impacts announced for our rural sites. Working with our teams and in communication with local leaders, we have not proceeded with the plans to close inpatient services in Invermere. We have also clarified that primary care physician services and access to laboratory services is continuing at the Barriere Health Centre, along with the COVID-19 testing and immunization clinics.

In each of the rural communities where there are site-specific impacts, we have connected with the local elected leaders and will be reassessing the situation together regularly. I know this is a critical component to maintaining confidence in our health system.

Due to the high rates of COVID-19 transmission happening right now, Interior Health is currently receiving hundreds of short notice sick calls every day. Taking yesterday as an example, 30 per cent of almost 800 sick calls were related to COVID-19. This is a significant increase on the volume of absences we normally see and is one of the key metrics and factors in these decisions.

You asked whether staff are being redeployed from rural communities to urban areas; in many cases, these temporary changes are focused on stabilizing services within the local area. For example, reducing overnight emergency department hours at the Slocan Community Health Centre in New Denver will stabilize daytime access at the site. Similarly,

We recognize and acknowledge that we are collectively gathered on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the seven Interior Region First Nations, where we live, learn, collaborate, and work together. This region is also home to 15 Chartered Metis Communities. It is with humility that we continue to strengthen our relationships with First Nation, Metis, and Inuit peoples across the Interior.

INTERIOR HEALTH CORPORATE ADMINISTRATION | 505 DOYLE AVE, KELOWNA, BC V1Y 0C5

PHONE 250.469.7070 ext. 12807 EMAIL Susan.BrownCEO@interiorhealth.ca 

Download:20220120-bc-rural-network-responseDownload

Letter to Susan Brown, CEO Interior Health Authority regarding cuts to rural healthcare announcement – January 20, 2022
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