Dr. David Robertson, executive medical director, laboratory, speaks to Campbell River city council on Monday, explaining some of the difficulties VIHA is having in filling pathology and lab technologist positions. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River city council hears from VIHA re: staffing shortage at hospital lab

‘I see this as strictly an operational and management issue, and I would hope you would get on it’

Ongoing issues at the pathology laboratory at the Campbell River Hospital have made their way to city council chambers.

Two presentations were made to council on Monday, outlining and then responding to community concerns about the outsourcing of some pathology services to Victoria, first reported by the Mirror back in April.

The Citizens for Quality Health Care claims making that move – instead of hiring a third general pathologist for Campbell River to cover the excess workload – leads to slower turnaround times for lab results and puts patient care at risk.

Representatives from Island Health (VIHA) responded to these claims by saying that pathology is increasingly being done by specialists – anatomic pathologists and hematopathologists rather than generalists – and this move was a reflection of that. In fact, generalists aren’t even being trained anymore in any significant numbers, according to Dr. David Robertson, executive medical director of laboratory services for VIHA, who told council Monday that “the last one to be trained in B.C., I think, graduated in 2017 – but it could have been 2016,” but then went on to do additional training “and is now working as a full-time hematopathologist in Interior Health.”

While Robertson, along with Dr. Steven Lokken, medical director of laboratory services for VIHA, acknowledged the lab is understaffed for the workload, he also said it’s VIHA’s plan to eventually have six pathologists on a team that would serve the pair of North Island Hospitals – five doing anatomic and one doing hematopatholgy – to serve both regional hospitals as one team – which would more than cover the amount of work being done between the two facilities.

But while council acknowledged that it’s good to hear about the long-term goals for the lab, VIHA has a responsibility to serve the community now.

Mayor Andy Adams was upset at the situation, as were the rest of the councillors remaining in the room after Coun. Claire Moglove recused herself, as she sits on the hospital board of directors.

“I see this as strictly an operational and management issue, and I would hope you would get on it,” Adams said. “I waited for nine days for pathology results that were sent to Victoria, and Dr. Robinson himself said at the Strathcona Regional District meeting, the expectation should be three to four days, so something is not working, gentlemen.”

Dr. Lokken said he’s “encouraged to have a community that knows what lab is and cares about that. We’re usally invisible. This is heartwarming, actually.”

However, he also said it’s not about securing resources after members of council suggested the city could help with that, as it has in the past. It’s about finding the people to fill the positions.

“It’s important to understand that we actually have the resources to fund these spots,” Lokken says. “It’s not the money. We need the trained human beings who simply do not exist in abundance across the nation,” saying that they are currently in discussions with regulatory bodies to see if they can make it easier to bring in people from places like Australia, where there are more specialists.

“We can help you,” Adams said. “What we don’t want to hear is the bafflegab. You need to tell us what it is you want, and I’m not hearing that tonight. We’re here, whenever you’re ready, to meet with us, meet with our staff, whether it’s tourism or economic development or human resources or whoever, because this council is representing not only this community, but the entire North Island, and your organization is trying to provide the best service possible for the citizens we represent. We can help you, but you need to help us, which means providing the information we can support you with and being a bit more proactive with us.”

“That would be fantastic,” Lokken said.



miked@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

What Campbell River got up to on your ‘Snow Day’ last week

We asked people to send us photos of what they were doing last Thursday after the big dump of snow

Model railroaders bring life-long passion for their hobby to annual Campbell River show

Annual train show coming to Museum of Campbell River on Jan. 25-26

Campbell River’s Teal Harle to compete at X Games this week

Freestyle skier set to take part in slopestyle and big air competitions

PHOTOS: Storm fall to Braves in shootout at the Brindy

Saanich won 4-3 Saturday night in Campbell River

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

Vancouver Island Pride weekend returns to Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Building on the success of last year’s family-friendly pride festival on Vancouver… Continue reading

Scarlett Point lighthouse keeper wins a million bucks playing the lottery

“I usually just get a quick pick, so I didn’t expect to win a big prize”

B.C. woman crowned the fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history

Malindi Elmore ran an incredible 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon

Most Read