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Patient’s death in Kamloops ER sitting area came amid marathon wait for treatment

Another ER patient claims nurse informed those waiting there was a severe staff shortage
Royal Inland Hospital is in downtown Kamloops, at Columbia Street and Third Avenue. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week)

— Kamloops This Week

A Kamloops resident who spent nine hours in the ER on Tuesday afternoon and evening (Sept. 7) waiting to be seen by staff said something needs to be done to improve the situation at Royal Inland Hospital.

The resident’s marathon wait was alongside dozens of other patients and occurred just before a 70-year-old woman died while waiting for treatment in the ER’s waiting room.

“But the nurses were phenomenal,” said the resident, who asked that their name not be published.

“I do not blame them whatsoever. It’s their system and whatever else they’ve got going. And for the shift that I saw in the ER last night (Sept. 7) and having somebody pass away because they weren’t seen, that’s not OK.”

The resident arrived at the ER at about 1 p.m. on Tuesday and was finally discharged at about 10 p.m., shortly after being seen for a respiratory issue.

It took about an hour to get through the triage system and be assessed, after which the resident was sent to Zone 4, near where the gift shop was previously located.

“Through the whole day, I sat in the chair closest to the door and people were getting called — there was people with cut fingers that were sitting there for, like, six hours waiting to be seen,” the resident said.

At one point, a nurse came out to speak to the patients, estimated at about 35.

“She came out to chat with everybody and let us know that there was only three nurses on shift,” the resident said.

The resident told KTW the nurse informed those waiting for treatment that there were only three nurses for four zones of patients when normally there would be six nurses for each zone of patients.

The nurse explained there was a staff shortage and an inundation of COVID-19 patients, while another staffer at the hospital noted at least 26 ER nurses have recently left for other positions due to being overworked, according to the resident.

As the hours rolled on, and the wait for treatment continued, other people arrived in the ER, seeking treatment, including an older woman in a wheelchair.

“And she dumped out of her wheelchair,” the resident said. “They [the people she was with] were able to put her back in there, but nobody ever came out to do anything. Nobody assessed her. Nothing.”

Finally, at about 10 p.m., the resident asked to be seen, noting the wait had reached nine hours. Staff said the resident’s name was called twice earlier.

“Which they didn’t, because I was sitting there the entire time,” the resident said.

“I don’t know if it’s their system and where they’re telling patients to go and wait and it’s not being communicated.”

It is not known what caused the death of the woman early Wednesday morning.

The woman’s daughter, Amanda Young of Calgary, told Radio NL — which originally reported on the incident — that her mother was taken to hospital on Tuesday night by another daughter due to stomach pains and endured a six-hour wait before she died.

KTW contacted Interior Health to ask for clarification of what happened, asking how long the patient was waiting and for what ailment treatment was being sought.

KTW also asked if Interior Health could confirm the number of people waiting for treatment at the time and the average wait time in the ER.

Interior Health issued a response via email.

“While we cannot speak to this situation, Interior Health reviews all unexpected deaths that occur in a hospital to determine what took place,” the response noted.

“We know these are very difficult situations for all those who are impacted and our thoughts are with those impacted. Our priority at Royal Inland Hospital is to ensure emergency department patients are triaged and seen in a timely fashion, and that they receive care based on the urgency of their needs.”

Royal Inland Hospital has been the subject recently of numerous news articles regarding staffing shortages and low morale.

It has been reported that about two-thirds of the nurses in ER have recently left the job due to burnout, leaving nurses and doctors dealing with far more patients than they normally would.

In addition, at least three straight weeks of elective surgeries were cancelled due to staffing shortages and limited time in operating rooms, coupled with a surge in COVID-19 patients and those who were bought to RIH from areas under wildfire-related evacuation orders and alerts.