Concerned Citizens dissatisfied with IHA response to local issues

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
May 25th, 2012

Nine members of the Concerned Citizens for Community Health Care (CCCHC) got their moment with the Interior Health Authority (IHA) during a small public meeting in the Boundary Hospital Board Room at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23.

A group of more than 40 Boundary residents from as far away as Midway gathered at the front of the Boundary Hospital in Grand Forks before going en masse into the board room to meet with IHA CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny, Interior Health (IH) Board chair Norman Embree, IH vice president of acute services Allan Sinclair and IH acute area director Ingrid Hampf for the 30 minute meeting.

The conditions of local health care facilities and services, the Broadacres Care Facility, the end of Sexually Transmitted Disease and HIV testing by public health nurses, the return of acute care beds to Boundary Hospital once new residential care facility has been constructed, what directors are compensated for, the quality of hospital meals, a suggestion to allow citizens with concerns to be able to talk directly to administration rather than through elected officials and the return of basic surgical procedures to the Boundary Hospital where all questions put to the four IHA representatives.

Christine Thompson of the CCCHC read the prepared questions to the four-panel group while other members of the community also contributed.

Acute care beds will return

Hampf said the 11 acute care beds in the Boundary Hospital currently being used for residential care will be returned to acute care once Silver Kettle Residential Care Facility is operational.

She said that the bed count will increase to 12. The number of beds per room will go down because there will be more semi-private two bed rooms and private rooms available.


Concern about director compensation

Things got heated when questions relating to director renumeration, meeting fees and expenses. According to the CCCHC, in March 2011 directors received $297,014; $92,208 for retainers, $151,559 for meeting fees and $53,247 for expenses.

The group wanted to know how that money is divided up.

Embree said directors get a per meeting fee but that amount varies as much as the length of the meeting can. He said the average meeting costs $452 per director. The amounts of compensation are determined by the government.

A sound of amazement rolled through the group.

“Some of us drive three hours in winter but we don’t get reinbursed,” one woman said, adding she would drive her husband six time a year to Kelowna in all kinds of weather just to get him the care he required.

“Personally I have to go to Kamloops to get tests too and I don’t get reinbursed,” said Embree.


STD/HIV clinic closures about efficiency

The closing of the STD and HIV clinic services in Grand Forks earlier this year had the community concerned about people going untested and untreated.

IHA justified the end of those services in the public health office as being more efficient. Halpenny said only one per cent of testing was being done through the public health office and the other 99 per cent was being done by family physicians before they made the change.

“We are trying to use our resources as efficiently as we can,” said Halpenny.

He said the move doesn’t save money, because it costs as much to have a family doctor to administer the tests as it did the public health nurses.

“We’re trying to use public health nurses more efficiently and effectively,” he told the group. “This was not done for a cost savings.”


Febuary meeting cancellation not weather related

The group wanted to know why a meeting they had requested with the CEO didn’t happen in Febuary 2012.

“Why couldn’t you come in February,” asked one man of Halpenny. “We drive in all weather … I travelled seven hours to see a doctor.”

“I understand the issues and the issue was really my time,” said Halpenny. “What do you want me to do? Apologize?”


Future surgeries at Boundary Hospital deemed unsafe

Although the Boundary Hospital does have an operating room that is considered fairly current, the IHA does not forsee any future surgeries being done there.

“The concern is that if there is a problem (the surgeons) don’t have back up to provide safe care,” said Hampf. “The concern is that if we have a situation we can’t deal with we’ll be risking lives.”

She said to help ease pre and post surgerical consultations an orthopedic and general surgeon visits the Boundary Hospital once a month, a gynocologist visits five times a year from Trail as does a pediatrician.

She said the decision to leave the Boundary Hospital operating room empty is not a budgetary one but purely a safety one.


Boundary Hospital providing quality service

The Boundary Hospital is one of the best health care facilities of it’s size in the region, Halpenny told the group.

He said to have six physicians willing to be on call for the community is unusual.

“This is different than in a lot of other communities,” he said. “When you walk through this facility, someone will always look at you and smile. You have a cohesive team here … There’s so many positives going on that you don’t see everywhere. I’m proud to see the work that they do here.”


Community not satisfied with answers given

“We knew what the answers would be,” said CCCHC member Laura Lodder after the meeting. “We’ve gotten the same answers so many times, why would they change them?”

“I think it’s wish wash. I don’t think anything will get resolved,” said CCCHC member Jane Pring after the meeting. “They (the panel of adminstrators) had answers and they hope everyone accepts them.”

“We don’t have the medical services we had 100 years ago,” said Pring.

Lodder became involved with the CCCHC after she became fed up seeing the Broadacres Care Facility sitting unused.

She didn’t buy Halpenny’s answer about the facility not meeting the standards of IHA as the reason for denying a contract to Rod Gustafson to provide services.

“(Rod Gustafson) put his heart into it so he could help patients and he could treat them with his best.”

Lodder also is disgusted at the lack of services available in Grand Forks.

“Why should we have to go to Trail to have something done,” she said, adding that because she doesn’t drive it makes health care access just that much harder for her.

Thompson had a more optimistic take on the meeting.

“I thought it went well,” she said. “Not all the answers we would have liked to have gotten (were given) … I believed they were honest and above board and I thought it was a good dialogue although there wasn’t enough time.”

Thompson said the CCCHC will be taking the answers they got and discussing what their next plan of action will be.


Midway suffering from loss of home care nurse hours

A Midway resident, who would like to remain anonymous, said the home care nursing hours were drastically reduced without notice to even the public health nurses or clinic.

“We’re in a bad way right now,” she told the group and the panel during the meeting.

“There has been a decrease of home support services in the Boundary since before Interior Health,” said Hampf. “There is a growing trend to keep people at home but not everyone will get the same level of care — there is an assessment process.”

The Midway home care nurse now only comes to the community on Monday and Friday when before they were available more frequently.

“There was no public announcement and the public health nurses were as surprised as we were,” said the Midway resident of the reduction in hours.

She said there is one Midway resident who was burnt and was sent home to heal but was required to have the dressing on the wound changed regularly. Normally a home care nurse would do that but now the hours are so limited this person will go without regular bandage changes, she said.

Midway physician, Dr. Daniel Ooi, has been known to make house calls but now he’s having to do even more with the loss of home care hours, she said.

“Now he’s doing wound dressings and B12 shots like the home care nurse used to do. I’m not sure how that’s making good use of Dr. Ooi’s time.”

Not all of the 13 detailed, planned and thoughtful questions Thompson read out could be covered in the 30 minutes so the group agreed to continue the discussion at the IH regional board meeting that was held at the Seniors Centre in Grand Forks City Park at 6 p.m. that same day.

The IHA is responsible for health care delivery for 740,000 people spread across 215,000 square kilometers in 22 hospitals and 12 community care facilities.

Categories: GeneralHealthIssues