People in the Interior will soon see an increase in surgical capacity as Interior Health adds five new operating rooms (OR): two at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) and three at Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) in Kamloops, along with increased supports for staff.
“We have made tremendous progress towards rescheduling and completing surgical procedures postponed in the Interior due to the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental emergencies and staff redeployments,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This investment in additional operating rooms in Kamloops and Kelowna will significantly increase surgical capacity throughout the region and help more patients receive their surgery faster and closer to home.”
At RIH, the three new ORs are expected to be open in 2023 and will support an additional 5,400 OR hours, or 3,240 procedures annually, bringing the number of base operating rooms at RIH to 13.
“The increase in operating rooms is welcomed news for our staff, physicians and, most importantly, our patients,” said Susan Brown, president and CEO, Interior Health. “Our hospitals continue to feel the pressures created over the last few years as we postponed surgical services to focus on critical care, which is creating a surge in demand for these services today. The additional funding will help meet our commitment to drive down wait times for patients and increase our capacity on an ongoing basis.”
The Interior Heart and Surgical Centre at KGH has existing space available to add two more ORs, increasing the number from 14 to 16. The new ORs are expected to be open in spring 2023 following the installation of additional surgical equipment. Once fully operational, the two ORs will support an additional 3,600 OR hours or approximately 2,500 surgeries annually at KGH.
The RIH OR expansion is supported by a one-time $6.7-million capital investment. The KGH OR expansion is supported by a one-time $6.9-million capital investment. The Central Okanagan Regional Hospital District contributed $2.76 million and there was a provincial contribution of $4.14 million.
“Supporting the health-care needs of people in our region is paramount. The expansion of the OR at KGH will work to immediately reduce wait lists and improve access to surgery,” said Loyal Wooldridge, chair of the Central Okanagan Regional Hospital District Board. “This is fantastic news and a great way for the regional hospital district to support capital needs at KGH.”
In May 2020, government launched its surgical renewal commitment, a $250-million plan to increase surgical capacity to address postponed non-urgent scheduled surgeries due to the COVID-19 pandemic and meet growing demand for surgery.
In addition to the added surgical capacity in Interior Health, government has increased funding by $2.9 million to help support additional staff in the intensive care unit, emergency department and hospitalist program at RIH, as well as additional incentives to attract staff to RIH. This includes additional health-care aides through the HCAP program, travel resource pool supports for nurses, retention incentives and re-entry bursaries for nurses returning to practice.
A backgrounder follows.