The City of Grand Forks will meet with Interior Health’s top executive sometime in the next week to discuss the temporary closure of beds at Boundary Hospital due to a shortage of registered nurses.
City councillor Everett Baker, who has been appointed the city’s liaison on the issue, says no date has been set for the meeting with CEO Susan Brown, but they hope it will happen this week or early next.
“The intent of the meeting is to get an understanding of what the current challenges are for Boundary Hospital that has forced this suspension of the inpatient unit and what we as council can do to expedite bringing it back to normal,” Baker says.
Mayor Brian Taylor, CAO Duncan Redfearn, and Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell are also expected to attend.
Baker said the closure of the dozen beds last week for lack of registered nurses saw patients dispersed to hospitals in Kamloops, Trail, Nakusp, and Kelowna.
On the same day, they met with the the head of the emergency room and chief of staff for Boundary Hospital to get some idea of the issues.
Baker says the top item brought forward was a lack of housing for nurses, and the second was a suggestion that Selkirk College offer its nursing program in Grand Forks.
While housing is an issue not just in the Boundary and not just for nurses, he says they would like to confirm with Brown that it is one of the obstacles to recruitment.
“I think we’re just looking for information. I need to hear from her directly: what are the reasons and if it is indeed housing, how can we as a city help resolve this?”
Baker says Grand Forks is fortunate to have a hospital, but its location makes accessing the next-closest facilities in Trail and Kelowna a challenge, especially for family members.
“You’re maybe two, two and a half hours away and there are mountains on all sides. The summer is not bad, but winter is treacherous.”
Adding to the issue are the loss of ambulances from the community when patients are transferred, he says.
While the city has not yet approached Health Minister Adrian Dix, Baker says they won’t hesitate to if necessary.
“We as a city certainly will advocate for our nurses and doctors and attempt to rectify this concern as quickly as possible. We ‘re very much committed to keeping that hospital operating as we are accustomed to.”