Kelowna General Hospital has been in a sustained state of overcapacity for weeks and frustration and burnout are real, according to a senior manager at the hospital.

“I know staff do get frustrated with this ongoing capacity but I do applaud everybody that shows up to work each and every single day. Because they absolutely do the best job that they possibly can,” said Jaymi Chernoff, executive director of clinical operations.

She was reacting to a complaint recently filed with the Patient Care Quality Office by a Kelowna man. Randy Millis contacted Castanet about what he believes was an inappropriate conversation between two staff members at KGH last weekend.

Millis was admitted to the Emergency Department Saturday, Dec. 3, after falling ill. About 24 hours later, he was transferred to a hallway on the third floor of the Strathcona Building.

It was while lying on a bed in the hallway on Sunday afternoon that he overheard a ‘very loud’ conversation between two women healthcare workers.

“They were debating the correct procedure for doing a dressing change and some other medical procedures. One kept going on (saying) ‘we’ve got to get things organized because we’re going to be killing patients’ and ‘I don’t want to be the one who’s killing patients’, said Millis.

“There was a few people kinda walking down the hallway and I could see their brows furrow and their ears perk up. This went on for several minutes.”

Millis says that’s when he told the women to take the conversation somewhere private.

He believes the women didn’t see him until he spoke up because he was parked on a stretcher behind a safety equipment cart. He points out they did apologize.

“Still, this is right between the medication room, the supply room and the main corridor with all these patients walking up and down and other staff. How upsetting and how inappropriate,” said Millis. “There’s a lot of people in a worse situation than I am and I’m sure that added stress of that kind of dialogue is not helpful to anyone’s recovery or wellbeing or state of mind.”

Chernoff notes that there is an appropriate time and place for staff to have candid conversations about frustrations they may have.

“We have definitely reminded staff to be mindful of where their discussions are taking place. But I do also say that I am empathetic with the frustrations that our staff have or the frustrations that our staff feel.

“The intent for everybody that comes to work every day is to do the best job they can and some days are just harder than others, especially when we’re in these over-capacity states.”

Millis says despite the unsettling conversation and spending hours on a stretcher in the hallway, he received excellent care at KGH. He says the conversation is a good indication over how overworked hospital staff are.

Chernoff couldn’t say exactly how overcapacity KGH was on the weekend.

“When any hospital is in a state of overcapacity or surging – and influenza season is definitely one of those contributors – sadly we do sometimes see situations where patients are held in hallways.”

Like many other industries, the healthcare sector is also dealing with persistent staffing shortages.

“Our healthcare workers are part of the community and I think the last three years have been hard on the entire community, healthcare workers included. The level of fatigue, burnout and frustration that’s there is prevalent, I think, everywhere in the community,” said Chernoff.

The influx of young patients with flu complications has put pressure on hospitals right across the country.

On Monday, the BC government announced it will be using the provincial health registry to contact parents in an attempt to increase flu vaccination rates for children.

“The public can help ease pressures on our health care teams at Kelowna General Hospital and protect themselves by getting immunized against influenza,” urges Dr. Silvina Mema, medical health officer, Interior Health Authority.

Mema points out that influenza can cause severe complications, particularly in very young children, seniors and people with underlying medical conditions that can lead to hospitalization. It can also make people more vulnerable to other infections.

Last week, nine-year-old West Kelowna resident Ayla Loseth died as a result of complications related to influenza and strep, something her family says could have been avoided had KGH properly diagnosed her sooner.


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