Fears for Kitimat health care

While Pink Floyd sang about a brick in a wall, Barb Campbell is worried about the wall itself.

While Pink Floyd sang about a brick in a wall, Barb Campbell is worried about the wall itself.

The wall in question, she told the members of the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group, was health care in Kitimat.

And she charged that the Northern Health Authority was slowly chipping away at the mortar that held it together.

Campbell’s comments came during a discussion of service cuts that had already taken place at Kitimat General and those it was feared were yet to come.

Recalling the reduction in ultrasound hours last year, Dr. Derek Carstens said nothing had changed despite all attempts to have hours restored to what they had been.

Asked by Leo DeSousa whether there was any light at the end of tunnel, 

Carstens replied, “We write, we meet with Health Services administrator (Jonathan Cooper and we wait.”

Turning to lab services, Carstens reminded members that Kitimat General had already had its microbiology services taken away – as a result of which the machine now sits in the Kitimat lab unused.

And warned the NHA is now targeting KGH’s remaining lab services.

The threat revolves around a piece of equipment now in need of replacement.

The old one had two test functions with 85 per cent of its work being chemical analysis. The proposal now is to replace it with a new  machine capable of doing the chemical analysis tests only.

Therefore, as in the case of microbiology, samples would have to be sent to Mills Memorial in Terrace for the tests it cannot perform.

Carstens emphasized that sending away for tests did not of itself mean an adverse impact on patient care. “It will be like the kitchen – you’ll still get your food but now it’s not made on site.”

But physicians will have to wait two or three days for results that could have been available under the existing system in one day.

And the hospital will lose revenue because it gets paid a fee by the provincial government for each test that it carries out.

Pointing out all other hospitals in the region could do the full range of tests, he asked, “Why shouldn’t we?”

Carstens said his concern was if the NHA kept chipping away  at the lab tests, KHAG would have no defence if someone in the lab left and the NHA decided not to replace them.

“You need to maintain a decent workload to maintain a decent lab,” he warned.

Asked if the tests being done here at the moment would be sent to a private lab in Terrace, Carstens replied they would all be sent to either Mills Memorial or Prince George.

However, he did point out that there were people in Terrace who were going to the private lab because they got quicker service that way than going to Mills Memorial.

In the ensuing discussion, it was suggested the NHA’s plans for Kitimat General should show up in its five and 10 year plans.

KHAG therefore passed a motion that, given it had not been provided with such plans despite numerous requests, it now demanded a copy of “the current budget and the five and 10 year business/budget plan within two weeks”.

When KHAG next meets this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in the Riverlodge Activity Room, that two weeks will be up.

Anyone with an interest/concern about health care is welcome to attend.

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