The time has arrived and the “hospital bell” is tolling for us all, in this town, right now

Well that time has arrived and the “hospital bell” is tolling for us all, in this town, right now.

Dear Editor;

Our hospital is at the moment going through some difficult times, and listening to local talk I think that it is important for the general public to know what is actually going on, as there are some very serious misconceptions doing the rounds.

First of all, and contrary to what you might hear on the TV and in the press, the Hospital and Emergency Room has been fully closed only once during the last 3 years that I am aware of! That occasion occurred last week on Christmas eve when there were no nurses to man the Emergency Room. Doctors were available (and in fact still did call for Ridgewood), but obviously it was not possible for an Emergency Room to stay open without qualified nursing staff. Note that this was a nursing problem and not a doctor problem.

Secondly, I am sure that you aware of the fact that the Hospital has been on “LLTO” mode on quite a few occasions over the past few months. This acronym of LLTO stands for Life, Limb or Threatened Organ, and what it actually means is that there is always a doctor available at any time of the day and night, but that after certain hours (usually midnight to 8 am), only the serious cases will be seen. All patients will be assessed by the RN on duty, and the physician will be called if any LLTO applies. In other words all serious cases will be seen immediately by the physician on call, and the RN will send all other, non urgent cases, on for further care to Penticton. So this must in no way be construed as any sort of closure of the Hospital.

It might be of interest to note that at the moment there are in BC alone over 600 vacancies for physicians. This includes hospitals, cities, small towns and walk-in-clinics. It might also be interesting to note that the College of Physicians in Vancouver has now made it MORE difficult to recruit physicians, as now all doctors applying to work in BC have to write the Canadian exams before they enter the country. Formerly, up to last year, physicians from British Commonwealth countries (of which South Africa was one such example) were exempt for a full year from writing the first exams. This is going to reduce dramatically the number of physicians that can be recruited.

You may also be aware of the fact that there has been a “Physician Recruitment Committee” which has been operating over the past few years. They have been singularly unsuccessful in their attempts but one cannot really fault them when one realizes that they are fighting against 600 other positions seeking doctors. In the light of what happened on Christmas eve, perhaps we should form a “Nurse Recruitment Committee”.

My personal view is that the only way that we are going to attract physicians is to offer them something that all the other places cannot offer. Whatever that is going to be, is going to require some extra initiative and serious thought, which has not been shown to date. With the new Mayor in office, new town Council and new ideas I am sure that anything is possible. I wish them good luck, as we are getting to “critical mass level” soon, and we are going to have to fight for our Hospital to stay alive. It will not be easy.

It was the memorable words of the poet John Donne who wrote that “send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee”. Well that time has arrived and the “hospital bell” is tolling for us all, in this town, right now.

David Smith MD.

Princeton Medical Center,

Princeton, BC.