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Posted: July 31, 2021

We feel the East Kootenay is a forgotten entity

Letter to the Editor

Interior Health Authority (IHA) recently announced that once again it was delaying the redevelopment of the East Kootenay Regional Hospital’s oncology department.

The oncology department is long overdue for redevelopment especially when Kelowna is also overcrowded and is the go-to oncology centre outside of the lower mainland for East Kootenay residents. Kelowna is also a very long ways away from the East Kootenay, especially during winter months.

The present East Kootenay Regional Hospital’s oncology unit is located on the third floor of the hospital in the most remote wing of the hospital from the main entrance. Immune compromised oncology patients have to weave their way throughout the entire hospital to get to their care – past admittance, up the stairs/elevators, past patients in hallways and past palliative care (which can depress the hope for the living who struggle with cancer). Not all oncology patients are well or even mobile, thus this journey can be very difficult.

How does this oncology department handle stretchers or wheelchair patients given the maze they have to negotiate with which to reach the unit?

To utilize the video conferencing room, which is a must for oncology patients to speak with specialist doctors in Kelowna or Vancouver, patients have to go around the nurse’s station, then past the storage and garbage areas, which are rather unsanitary at any time, but are an even worse experience when you are immune compromised.

The Interior health authority has stated that a new oncology unit was to have been built for the last many years – we believe since about 2015. Why the delays? What has happened?

The oncology department appears to be beyond capacity and it is a scheduling nightmare to see a doctor or get treatments with more and more patients in the area needing cancer care. The Cranbrook regional hospital is responsible for patients from Golden to Creston.  More help needs to be extended to this department.

The nurses and doctors in the East Kootenay Region Hospital Oncology department are amazing and fantastic! They are forced to constantly adapt and improvise to care for what appears to be increasing numbers of oncology patients from the East Kootenay.  We would like to thank these outstanding doctors and nurses for the exemplary care they give at all times but especially when they are overrun with patients in crowded conditions with limited space and what appears to be limited resources.

Why is it that we feel the East Kootenay is a forgotten entity of B.C.?  Yes, other departments in the hospital need upgrading and it is wonderful to now have an ICU in Cranbrook.  However, the oncology department is long overdue for improvements as a result of too many patients, too few resources, and a small working space.

Our question is this. Why is Interior Health not developing a five-year planning process which looks at all aspects of the East Kootenay Regional Hospital and determines which departments need to be updated etc.? This planning process should be open for public scrutiny. Presently there appears to be no plan and changes appear to be on an ad hoc basis, especially noted when plans change on a regular basis for the oncology department over many years.

Please don’t make this invaluable oncology department wait more years to be improved.

Doug & Dale Martin,


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