‘Unprecedented congestion’

SURREY – The province’s busiest ER got even busier this past weekend after facing “unprecedented congestion,” and difficulties finding beds for patients.

According to an internal staff bulletin obtained by the Vancouver Sun, Surrey Memorial Hospital was facing “the highest volume of patients in emergency needing admission without assigned beds,” as well has having difficulty finding patients to discharge.

Ken Donohue, director of public affairs for Fraser Health confirmed the hospital was seeing higher than normal volume of patients and noted they don’t ever turn people away.

“It peaked one day last week at 470 patients seen in a day, which, is a huge number,” said Donohue, adding a normal day at Surrey ER is usually in the 300s.

On Monday morning, Donohue said the situation had somewhat settled.

“This isn’t exclusive to Surrey, it’s being reported at hospitals across the province and even North America,” he said.

“What we’re seeing is the severity of the illness is a lot higher than it normally is and that means patients are needing to stay longer in hospital and so obviously that poses challenges for the hospital and staff.”

Those challenges mean finding spaces for patients while the usual beds are already being occupied, which can lead to patients having to be stationed in hallways for

treatment and recovery.

Donohue admitted those situations are never ideal but hospital staff do what they can with what they have.

“The memo that went out to staff was really an alert that the entire hospital needs to work together to ensure proper flowthrough throughout the hospital,” he said. “When a patient no longer needs hospital care it’s important that staff is working to discharge that patient so they can go home or receive care in the community.”

As for “multiple outbreaks” of illnesses like Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and others, Donohue said only the C. difficile constituted an outbreak at this point.

“Sometimes people get scared when they hear outbreak but it’s a word that we use in the case of C. difficile when there’s three or more cases,” he explained, adding that enhanced cleaning procedures and transfer practices are then implemented in order to

prevent infection.

In terms of a message for the public, Donohue wanted to remind people that the ER operates on a triage system, meaning those with more serious illnesses are given priority when admitted to the ER.

“So if you nave a less serious illness that might mean you have to wait a little longer. We appreciate people’s patience in that regard and we want to let them know staff is always working hard to see people as soon as they can,” he said.

Donohue also wanted to remind the public that they can call 811 if they believe their illness may be less serious, which would put them in touch with a nurse.

“You may be able to talk to a nurse about your illness or your condition and you may not need to go to the emergency,” he said. “There could be other options they could help you with.”