Dr. Lawe misses the mark

I read with dismay Dr. Andrew Lawe’s letter attacking Adrian Dix’s health care plan. This reply is not political, but I do believe Mr. Dix’s prescription for West Kootenay hospital care has it exactly right.

Re: Dix health care plan would ‘destabilize’ local health care, May 4

I read with dismay Dr. Andrew Lawe’s letter attacking Adrian Dix’s health care plan. This reply is not political, but I do believe Mr. Dix’s prescription for West Kootenay hospital care has it exactly right.

Dr. Lawe, having practiced in Trail for only four years, ignores or is unaware of the drastic cuts abruptly imposed by the IHA in July 2002 at Kootenay Lake Hospital and elsewhere in the West Kootenay. The added cost of emergency ambulance transfers of critically ill Kootenay Lake Hospital patients to Trail is not mentioned, nor the huge impact on patient safety of the delay of urgent treatment involved.

For the record, I’m a retired specialist in internal medicine and kidney disease who practiced in Trail from 1964 to 1991, and served as medical director of the Trail hospital renal unit until retiring to Balfour. I never practiced in Nelson. I do serve with others on the Nelson and Area Health Task Force, appointed jointly in 2002 by Nelson city council and the Regional District of Central Kootenay, with a mandate to report and advise on the impact of the 2002 cuts on patient safety and quality of care. This we continue to do.

Some facts:

Of interest, 2008 government statistics showed Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson to be the referral centre for 24,878 people, and Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail the referral centre for 19,418.

Until July 2002, Kootenay Lake Hospital had three busy general surgeons, Drs. Carscadden, Poole and Muth, who provided round the clock full general and emergency surgery. Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, serving a smaller population, had two general surgeons.

In July 2002, without consultation, IHA abruptly banned emergency surgery and any surgery requiring an overnight stay at Kootenay Lake Hospital, closed the Kootenay Lake intensive care unit, and reduced Kootenay Lake beds from 45 to 30. Ignoring population figures and growth, Kootenay lake was demoted to a “level 1” hospital, a category for small isolated communities, and Kootenay Boundary was named as “regional” hospital.

The result — Nelson patients who previously received emergency surgery without delay at Kootenay Lake Hospital now face at least a two hour delay for transfer, as well as the trauma of transport — time for an appendix to rupture, an ulcer to perforate, a bleeding ruptured spleen to be fatal. So much for the “golden hour.” The Health Task Force has documented over the years multiple instances where patients and families suffered because of urgent treatment delays. This MUST be corrected! Both Nelson and Trail need full emergency services locally available 24/7.

Premier Gordon Campbell’s 2002 promise was “timely health care when and where you need it.” When will the promise be kept?

Dr. John A.Mackay, B.A., MD, CM, FRCP (C)