Red Deer hospital (Black Press files)

Red Deer hospital (Black Press files)

Stop blaming patients, say emergency doctors

Doctors say it’s time to deal with bed shortages

Hospitals across Canada are ignoring bed shortages that are causing unacceptable wait times for patients in emergency departments, says the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.

Alan Drummond, co-chair of public affairs with the association, said when a sign in emergency indicates a possible eight-hour wait to see a doctor, as people saw for a period of time last week at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, the public must hold their health systems accountable.

In B.C., emergency rooms have been the focus of plenty of criticism, specifically in the Lower Mainland.

STATE OF EMERGENCY: Hospital congestion a structural issue, ER doctors say

“For far too often in any jurisdiction in Canada, governments and regional health authorities have been saying that the reason they’ve got crowding is that people are overusing the department or they are using it inappropriately. None of that is true. The science is very clear. It all comes down to bed capacity,” Drummond said Thursday.

Drummond said overcrowding in emergency is not due to the volume of patients, but the inability to transfer admitted emergency patients to beds elsewhere in the hospital.

READ MORE: More treatment beds on way following first year of overdose crisis

He said the backlog started in the mid-1990s when Canadian hospitals closed beds to cut costs and created about a 30 per cent reduction in bed capacity that continues today.

“We have this massive shortage of beds at a time when the population is getting older and, in some cases, sicker. They live longer and have more chronic illness.”

He said the backlog is compounded by the problem that about 15 to 20 per cent of beds are occupied by elderly patients whose medical treatment has been managed but they can’t go home due to a lack of support in their home, or can’t access a long-term care bed.

Drummond said some provinces have had more success addressing hospital capacity. Ontario, for example, just announced it is opening 2,000 more beds in advance of the flu season. But Alberta has struggled with crowding for quite a while. Red Deer hospital, for example, may have overcapacity protocols to send patients back home quicker, and will convert spaces like hospital lounges into areas for patients, but those protocols are mitigating strategies.

“They are not solutions.”

When hospital occupancy rates are at 90 to 95 per cent, bed shortages are a given, he said.

“The only way to address crowding ultimately is to improve bed access. No government wants to talk about that because increasing bed capacity means increasing dollars they don’t have. It’s about $400,000 to open up a bed for the year.”

Instead, health officials continue with the “charade of blaming and shaming the patients for showing up in emerge in the first place,” he said.

“What they really need to focus their attention on is accepting the fact that our population is getting older, they’re not necessarily getting any healthier, and to meet those needs we’re going to have to ultimately increase hospital bed capacity like it or not.”

Drummond also worries that wait time signs in emergency departments may discourage people from staying to get life-saving treatment they need.

“There have been many, many cases, anecdotally, across Canada of people that have come to emergency and are told by a helpful volunteer or a helpful triage nurse that the wait was going to be prolonged, and they go home and then they die.”



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Alberta Health Services Central Zone

Just Posted

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue Society has outgrown its home at the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department and will soon move to its new operations hall at the Qualicum Beach Airport. (PQB News file photo)
The Qualicum Beach Farmers Market is one of the organizations approved for a grant-in-aid by the Town of Qualicum Beach. (PQB News file photo)
COVID-19: Town of Qualicum Beach awards $80K in relief funds to community groups

Pandemic has put a financial strain on many organizations

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Parksville Civic and Technology Centre at 100 Jensen Ave. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville council receives letter from B.C.’s health minister regarding free prescription contraception

Letter was in response to Parksville’s support for universal no-cost measure

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

Most Read