Doctors at a cash-strapped hospital in the Kootenays are proposing to pay nurses out of their own pockets to keep operating rooms running.
Seventeen surgeons at Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital are fighting the Interior Health Authority's recent move to reduce nursing staff hours. They plan to pay nurses themselves in order to maintain operating room services.
"In order to save things, we are willing to go this far," anesthesiologist Dr. Ian Grant said But the proposed move by the surgeons to pay Kootenay-Boundary's nurses is not an act of charity, Dr. Grant said.
"The orthopedic surgeons would increase their revenues if they paid nurses to stay on staff," Dr. Grant said. "But if they didn't perform surgeries, they would probably make just as much money sitting in their offices and the wait-times would increase."
Hospital administration cut three full-time operating room nursing positions earlier this week in order to reduce costs. One of four operating rooms will close, fewer surgeries will be conducted each week and patient wait-times will increase as early as next week.
According to Health Service Administrator Frank Marino, the hospital's latest cost-reducing measures are unavoidable due to the hospital's overextended budget.
"We do need the O.R. nurses but we had to look at reducing the amount of paid hours in the operating room," Mr. Marino said. "We've struggled to stay within our budget so we are trying to get to a financial place that we can maintain."
For Dr. Grant and his colleagues, budgetary cuts to Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital's operating rooms will severely impact doctors' abilities to provide adequate medical care to the nearly 80,000 people in the Kootenay-Boundary region.
"It's all about budgeting and we are losing out over what seems like pennies," said Giselle Keenan, a registered nurse who lost her full-time position on Monday.
Whether Kootenay-Boundary's surgeons and anesthetists will be permitted to pay the wages of the hospital's O.R. nurses is still in question.
"I haven't heard of any precedent like this," Mr. Marino said. "In terms of the implications, the Interior Health Authority has to do some research."