LETTER: Alarm bells need to sound about the Trail hospital

Letter writer concerned about the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital

I am glad to see that finally some attention is being paid to the infection rates at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital. The Trail hospital has been notorious for years for infections stemming from surgery there. Numerous people of my acquaintance will do anything not to go there, and will arrange to go to Kelowna or Vancouver at great personal cost and inconvenience because of the hospital’s reputation. No doubt there are those who would accuse these people and myself of being alarmist, but I know this story resonates with many people here in the Kootenays.

So it is good to see that hip and knee replacements have been cancelled for the time being, supposedly because of a “little blip” in elevated rates of infection.

Cancelling the hip and knee operations is not enough, however. What on earth would make anyone think it was a good idea to reassign the surgery time to other surgeries when there is an infection problem that is not understood? Why would it be safe to perform other operations when there is a recognized elevated rate of infection with some kinds of operations? Are the germs really that selective? Clearly no one knows, seeing as they don’t know what is happening.

It is also worth noting that for years there was a dedicated hip and knee surgery facility in Rossland, probably because Rossland is a ski town and the facility focused on sports injuries. People were very pleased with results from there. The place has since been closed and turned into condos, but I have a good source telling me that the operating theatres still exist on the main floor, in hopes that one day it would be revived. Perhaps this would be part of the solution?

If there were a public inquiry, I assure you there would be anecdotal evidence about infection at the Trail hospital. Not only from hip and knee operations, but from other surgeries as well. Since I have started talking to people about this, just about everyone I know, including doctors and others in the medical profession, has a story to tell, either about themselves or about friends and family. I have two good friends who experienced life-threatening infections as a result of what should have been routine surgery.

I have personal experience of Trail’s infection problems, having contracted a mysterious infection that nearly killed me when I had a hernia operation. No one knew what the infection was, or what to do about it. The surgeon who was filling in and overseeing my treatment while it was happening was completely baffled and truly alarmed. We decided to ride it out. Fortunately I have a strong constitution, and survived. Unfortunately, the infection was not completely eradicated and has returned to haunt me, some three years later. I wonder if any of this showed up in any records? I suspect there are all kinds of stories like this that just disappear.

I am hoping the alarm bells will truly begin to sound, and that more and more people will come forward with their experiences and force the Interior Health Association and the hospital system in general to look into these matters and to change the way things are done.

Only a public outcry will force the system to respond to people’s concerns. Hopefully people will speak out and demand something better.

In closing I want to say, the staff at the hospital are just great. They are friendly and supportive, even when they are clearly overworked. It must break their hearts to know about the problems in their workplace, and not to be able to speak out or do anything about them. It is an outrage that there is no whistleblower protection for healthcare workers, so they are in danger of losing their jobs if they talk about this situation.

Moe Lyons

Winlaw

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