SURREY — The Fraser Health Authority is closing 80 acute care hospital beds in the valley as part of a plan focussing on expanding community and home-based programs.
Tasleem Juma, senior spokeswoman for the authority, said the reduction will be “offset” by the opening of more than 400 residential beds in the Fraser Valley, 75 of which will be at the Elim Village retirement home in Fleetwood. She said the FHA will also open 10 new hospice beds in the valley and expand its home support programs including BreathWELL for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
This will take place over the next six months, Juma told the Now. “It’s slowly being implemented.”
The reduction in acute care beds will affect 10 hospitals including Surrey Memorial Hospital and Peace Arch Hospital.
“We’re talking about a handful of beds per hospital,” she said.
The concept is that if people are receiving care at home, which is less expensive to the government, they won’t need to go to hospital unless they are really ill. Juma said there are “people in hospital beds that could or should be better served in the community.”
No jobs will be lost as a result, Juma added. “In fact, we’ll be hiring more staff because of the service in the community.”
Sue Hammell, NDP MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, said the news is “astounding,” and not in a good way.
“This is not productive. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s insane. And it’s disrespectful at a very deep level.”
Hammell said the region already gets less money per capita than any other health region in the province and that SMH is already 89 patients over capacity.
“That’s overcrowding,” she said. Hammell added that the system doesn’t have the capacity in the community to absorb the cutting of 80 beds. “Maybe they should make sure the care is in the community before they cut the acute care beds.”
Meantime, the BC Nurses’ Union is expressing “serious concerns about safe patient care” in the light of Fraser Health shifting resources to the community.
“We have an overriding concern about safe patient care,” said union president Gayle Duteil. “Congestion is increasing in emergency rooms. Last week we saw a record high number of patients waiting for beds in wards. Some patients were waiting in the ER for upwards of four hours just to be triaged. That is not safe patient care.”
The union says closing beds has resulted in “excessive waits” for patients as well as backlogs in emergency rooms.
Dutiel noted that dozens of palliative care patients are in their homes waiting for nursing care.
“We want to provide them with the care they need but there must be more nurses in place.”
Fraser Health has been hiring more nurses than other health authorities in the last three months as part of an agreement with the union to hire 400 more. All told, 1,600 more nurses are to be hired throughout the province.