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Dix won't say whether any changes are coming to B.C. hospital after woman dies in emergency waiting room

A 70-year-old woman died while waiting for care outside the emergency room at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

If any changes are being made at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops in the wake of the death Wednesday of a 70-year-old woman waiting for care outside the emergency room, health officials are refusing to talk about it.

Health Minister Adrian Dix took questions from reporters on Thursday and was asked the same question three times — what action is being taken now to address the apparently dire situation at RIH?

Dix did not provide an answer, pointing instead to previous attempts to recruit health-care staff to the Kamloops hospital, including a $1-million effort earlier this year.

“We’re doing what we’ve done all over the province,” Dix said after being asked the question for the third time.

“The message one needs to give to everybody in this COVID-19 pandemic is to get vaccinated.”

On Wednesday, a woman died waiting for care outside the emergency room at RIH. Her family told Radio NL she went to the hospital will stomach pains at 8 p.m. and died in the waiting room at about 2 a.m. — after waiting six hours to be seen.

A report Thursday in Kamloops This Week said the RIH emergency department was extremely understaffed when the woman died. According to the report, there were three nurses on duty — just a fraction of the 24 that would typically be working.

Dix said he couldn’t speak to specifics regarding the death, but said a review is ongoing.

“There is an automatic process of review in these circumstances and we can’t talk about specific cases,” he said.

“These are very challenging times at Royal Inland and everywhere else.”

Dix was also asked how he would provide assurance to Kamloops residents that the city's hospital is operating as it should be.

“By, first of all, acknowledging the really extraordinary effort that everyone’s putting in,” he said.

“We’ve got to continue and do all the work we did. We’ve invested a very significant amount in the budget to train more nurses and bring in more nurses, and we’re going to continue to.”

Dix said the staffing situation at Royal Inland Hospital remains a priority for the province.

“We’ve added resources. Kamloops has been a priority for the last number of years and it continues to be a priority,” he said.

“The individual that passed away and her family, I understand their grief. I know that everyone involved feels that and can understand that.”

According to Dix, changes have been made within Interior Health to address staffing challenges.

“What you see at Royal Inland Hospital and Kelowna General over the last period are adjustments we’ve made to try and provide staff to address the significant challenges facing the community,” he said.

“We also are taking steps every day to recruit and provide more supports, and that’s what’s happening in Interior Health.”

The BC Coroners Service is investigating the woman’s death.