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Patient pained by relocation of physiotherapy at Salmon Arm hospital

Interior Health said move is for anticipated upgrades to Ambulatory Care unit
Interior Health says Shuswap Lake General Hospital’s physiotherapy unit has been relocated from near the Level 3 Emergency entrance in “anticipation of upgrades to the Ambulatory Care unit and other associated programs.” (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

The recent relocation of physiotherapy services at Shuswap Lake General Hospital has prompted a Salmon Arm man to speak out for staff and fellow patients.

Paul Skinner says he benefited greatly from the hospital’s physiotherapists about 10 years ago after receiving reconstructive hip surgery. At that time, physiotherapy services were located adjacent to admitting, just inside the Level 3 entry to Emergency.

“It used to be easy and convenient to be dropped off in a vehicle and walk or hobble on crutches a short distance to receive the valuable and extremely helpful care of our wonderful physiotherapists,” Skinner explained in a letter to the Observer.

About two months ago, Skinner broke his other hip and needed surgery for a broken femur.

“I need crutches to ‘walk’ so I was very grateful that I could get physiotherapy at our hospital in the same convenient location… on the third floor,” said Skinner, adding this lasted a few weeks, until physiotherapy services were moved to another location further inside the hospital.

“I was suddenly informed that the physio department was moving further inside the hospital and down on the second floor…,” said Skinner. “No logical explanation was given other than the current physio space would now be used for ambulatory care patients. I was certainly surprised and disappointed by this news.

“Why would someone decide to move the physio department further away from the hospital entrance and make it more difficult for recovering surgery patients to get the physio treatment they require?”

In an email to the Observer, Interior Health confirmed it had moved the physiotherapy unit in anticipation of upgrades to the Ambulatory Care unit and other associated programs at Shuswap Lake General Hospital (SLGH).

“We understand that this move causes challenges for patients needing access to physiotherapy services in Salmon Arm and area, particularly those with restricted mobility,” said Interior Health.

Describing a subsequent visit to SLGH, Skinner explained the new path to physio involved him “hobbling” on his crutches past admitting and triage, turning right at the washrooms, left down a long hall, left again and onto an elevator.

“(I) got on the elevator as the closing door tried to steal one of my crutches, pushed floor number 2, got off the elevator, turned left, then right and found the sign for the physio department,” said Skinner. “In the hall outside this room there are no waiting chairs, so if you are early for your appointment, be prepared to stand up on your crutches while you wait. I can’t imagine how difficult this journey would be for someone in a wheelchair and less mobile than me.”

Skinner described the new location as though it had originally served as a supply or utility room.

“The door to this room almost hit the receptionist’s desk when it was opened – that’s how small it was!” said Skinner. “I had considerable difficulty moving through this small space and wondered how a wheelchair could navigate in there.”

Skinner learned the physio equipment was located in another room.

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“My physiotherapist is simply wonderful and I was impressed at how she handled this new sub-par environment very professionally,” said Skinner. “Although she apologized, I could tell that she was not enjoying the hot, stuffy air either as there was a small portable fan running to try and improve the air quality.”

Interior Health stressed the well-being of patients is a top priority, and that it is “working diligently to minimize any disruptions and ensure a seamless and positive experience for all patients during this transition.”

“That is why we have staff and volunteers able to help transport patients to and from their appointment,” said the health authority. “Additionally, signage has been installed at the hospital to help patients find the new location of physiotherapy.”

Skinner said he contacted Interior Health to complain about this “unfortunate situation,” and was told it was a temporary situation that will be corrected “sometime in the future.”

“Not only is this new, awkward location creating stress and extra burden on patients, the small inadequate space makes it more difficult for our highly trained physiotherapists to perform their work in a high-quality manner,” said Skinner. “Physiotherapy is a vital step on the path to full recovery from surgery or a serious injury. Our physiotherapists deserve better and so do we!”

Interior Health said that it “appreciates the patience of all persons impacted during this relocation of the physiotherapy department, as we work to improve healthcare for Salmon Arm and area residents.”

“If residents have any concerns, we encourage them to reach out to Interior Health to let us know,” said the health authority.

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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