As promised at the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group meeting, chairman Rob Goffinet took the issue of too few multi-level care beds to the Standing Committee on Finance meeting in Smithers.
The committee has been touring the province seeking views on what should be included in next Spring’s provincial budget.
“Multi-level care in Kitimat was not even really thought of a decade or two ago,” he told the committee, explaining, “Kitimat used to be a young, working-class, family-orientated community.”
Now, however, the demographics of the community were changing rapidly.
Goffinet said that was because, “For the first time in our history our people are choosing to remain in the north in retirement.” Secondly, people from outside the community were also deciding the retire here, “so our elder population is increasing surprisingly rapidly.”
While Kitimat had of the most modern, up-to-date hospitals in British Columbia, these days 25-30 per cent of acute care beds were now being filled on a consistent basis by people who should be in multi-level care but are not because of a lack of spaces.
“Our whole hospital is put at risk because the surgeon and emergency often have to delay the effective use of our surgeons and our two operating rooms because acute care beds are being filled by multilevel-care patients,” Goffinet explained.
From the patient’s perspective, he pointed out that a lack of multi-lrevel care beds meant couple were having to be separated, one in acute care and one in multilevel care.
“When the pressure builds up that the spouse cannot take it anymore in acute care, the inclination is to try to move them to another care facility,” he explained.
“Yes, it’s the next home care facility, but the closest one is either Terrace, 60 kilometres, or this town, 250 kilometres away. What you do is that you irrevocably destroy that family at the last moment. That’s what we would like to avoid in our town Goffinet added.
“What we’re advocating is, please, we need action now when some support for Northern Health for multilevel-care construction would do the most good,” he added.
In the same vein, Goffinet pointed out home care services were crucial to keep our seniors out of multi-level care. “So far it’s worked, but now we’re finding that our baby boomer generation is retiring and home care is now in a succession crisis.”
Therefore, “We would encourage in the budget that succession planning is crucial for health care, especially in the north.
The provincial budget should also recognise that “retention and just recruitment of personnel in the north is an added difficulty.”
Turning to the economic development boom that Kitimat was just starting to go through, Goffinet said that is throwing up a health care in that the workers and families moving into town are forced to use the Kitimat General emergency room as their family physician.
(Goffinet had earlier made reference to the shortage of GPs – general practitioners – at the moment.)
“Therefore, in your budgets we would ask you to understand that hospitals like the Kitimat General need added funding for…two to three times as many emergency room personnel as was historically the case,” he told the committee.
“The coming years will see tremendous economic activity in the northwest, which will be a direct benefit to the budget health of all of British Columbia. But those unintended health and social impacts upon Kitimat are real.”