The current events and ongoing crisis in the ER department at Royal Inland Hospital has brought much attention to the current challenges Kamloops and area residents are faced with accessing timely medical care in this community.
I would like to discuss our experience with Interior Health regarding the unfortunate closure of the Kamloops Urgent Care Clinic (KUCC) in June 2021.
The clinic began operation in 2005, initiated by a group Interior Health emergency physicians who recognized then the systemic overload at RIH accessing timely medical care in appropriately triaged patients.
Over the years, we evolved to also managing post-surgical and medical discharges from RIH and with out-of-town patients, as well as providing longitudinal care for potentially vulnerable patients in the general community who did not have primary care access.
When COVID-19 struck, we remained open, continuing to provide in-person care when there were few other options during the pandemic.
In the summer of 2020, we faced a manpower crisis, with many of the physicians simply unable to continue with the demands of full-time ER shifts in conjunction with their KUCC shifts.
However, we had a core of physicians who had some flexibility and who felt the need to continue to provide this essential community service.
With the assistance of the Divisions of Family Practice, we began recruiting in earnest. Our supporting staff were committed to continue and we had hope.
In September 2020, again with support from the Divisions of Family Practice, we began regular meetings with Interior Health to make our and the community’s voices heard, expressing clearly the systemic concerns we had should we be forced to close.
During these meetings, there were many different attendees from Interior Health, every meeting bringing new faces and new titles representing the health authority.
Our goal was simply to secure a relatively small of amount of short-term support to stay functional in care provision while we actively recruited. There was indeed interest from new physicians, but unfortunately, this enthusiasm was not matched by Interior Health.
To quote an Interior Health representative at one of these meetings: “Why is this our problem?”
In the end, we had no choice but to close our doors.
While I recognize the KUCC closure is not the sole cause of the current ER crisis at RIH, we certainly had a positive impact, providing timely care and followup to 60 patients per day.
These patients are now cast adrift with few options for care.
In that respect it is your problem. It is all of our problem. Kamloops and area citizens deserve better from our health authority.
Dr. Chris Janz