Cover Story: Big health facility with a small town feel
If there’s a common thread when talking about Delta Hospital, it’s that it’s a big health facility with a small town feel to it.
There are many reasons for that, from the fact it’s located on the rural edge of Ladner, employs health care professionals who live nearby, and enjoys passionate support from the community.
“The people in the community are so supportive of their hospital,” says Stacey Boyda, individual giving manager at Delta Hospital Foundation. “There’s a rich history of how the hospital actually came into existence.”
In fact, the Hospital Foundation can be said to have grown from the same community spirit that built the hospital.
The concept of a hospital in Ladner was first conceived in the 1960s by locals who wanted to take their families to an acute care facility in an emergency. By 1974, a proposal in support of a hospital in Delta was accepted by Delta’s council of the day and the Greater Vancouver Regional Hospital District Board. A 75-bed extended care unit was opened in 1977, and an emergency room, operating room, x-ray, laboratory, and support services opened three years later on Sept. 5, 1980.
Many of those community members who helped fundraise for the hospital’s creation continued on by creating the Hospital Foundation, dedicated to raising money for the constant needs of the facility.
“The community has been here from the beginning to enhance the programs we have, whether it be emergency services, the CT scanner we have, or the endoscopy clinic, they really are the ones who bring better patient care to the hospital.”
Dr. Michael Curry, a physician at Delta Hospital, says the hospital is so integrated into the community of Ladner that physicians can tell when a visiting patient is local. For a facility that serves a population of more than 100,000 residents, Delta Hospital is surprisingly small town.
“We have their records here, we know who their physicians are, we communicate with their family physicians,” says Dr. Curry. “The ability to provide care close to home I think makes a real difference for the people who live near the Delta Hospital.”
As chief of emergency medicine, Dr. Curry helps organize the division of labour for physicians in the hospital, and liaises with the Fraser Health Authority and hospital administration.
But it is his work as a physician in the emergency ward that he enjoys the most. The unpredictability of the job means he’s always dealing with new people, new situations, and new problems to solve.
Dr. Curry, who has been practising medicine for 11 years, decided to become a doctor to do good in the world.
“A lot of jobs, unfortunately, involve trying to make money, and if you can do good along the way that’s great and obviously people enjoy that. But I think with medicine one of the nice things is that you’re generally pretty sure you’re trying to do a good thing most of the time.”
Caleigh Goulding, a 19-year-old Ladner student, has been volunteering in the extended care facility of Delta Hospital for the past four years. Adrian MacNair photo.
Caleigh Goulding, a 19-year-old second year Health Sciences student at Simon Fraser University, will begin volunteering in the emergency ward next week.
The Ladner resident has been volunteering with the hospital for four years after first visiting patient in the Emergency Care Unit with her church. But it wasn’t enough for Goulding.
“We were only there one Sunday a month and I thought I kind of want to be here more often. So I came in for an interview and started volunteering on a weekly basis.”
Goulding began by providing coffee and tea for extended care patients. At first she was worried about making mistakes but her fears were quickly allayed.
“It’s such a community here with all the nurses. They’d say the cups are here, the coffee’s there, they’d come in and help me without me even asking to be helped.”
After a couple of years she began doing individual, two-hour visits with patients to provide them with some company, whether that be watching TV with them, reading, or helping them eat dinner.
Many extended care patients are seniors with varying forms of dementia and communication can be a challenge, but Goulding enjoys her time with each one.
“They’re a little bit more willing to be open with you,” she says. “I find that these people just started as residents I was working with and have totally become friends. I can come in once a week and talk to them about my life and that’s really wonderful.”
Goulding says she’s learned so much from the patients that it’s been life-changing. She also has a lot of fun in the process.
Stacey Boyda, individual giving manager at Delta Hospital Foundation, says it's the community of South Delta that is the heart of Delta Hospital. Adrian MacNair photo.
“There was one resident here that I became very good friends with and she loved the show Storage Wars so much. She used to want to marry the character Barry Weiss so we’d spend our weeks planning her wedding,” she says laughing.
Dr. Curry says with Metropolitan Vancouver’s ratio of hospital beds to population being among the worst in Canada, Delta Hospital fills a vital role for residents south of the Fraser River.
That role was jeopardized in 2002 when the province downgraded Delta Hospital to a sub-acute facility in 2002 and tried to centralize services in Richmond and Surrey. Residents quickly organized to create the Save Delta Hospital Society and collected 31,000 names for a petition that pressured levels of government like Delta municipal council to take action.
When the hospital was reinstated as an acute care facility in late 2008 Goulding says the sense of community was strengthened.
“We’re so proud of Delta Hospital and what it’s accomplished and the fact that it’s still here,” she says.
As a mother and Tsawwassen resident, Boyda says it’s nice to know the hospital is close by.
“Because we’ve all—everyone in my family, with the exception of my little one—have been here to hospital, whether it’s the lab for medical imaging or the ER. So, it’s nice knowing it’s here and you don’t have to trek halfway across the country.”
Even after the tape recorder is turned off and the notebook is packed away, Dr. Curry continues to talk about how much he enjoys his workplace.
After working in most of the hospitals in Alberta and a fair number here in B.C., he says this one is his favourite.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie among physicians, the quality of care is incredible, and there’s also a dedicated core of nurses, many of whom live in the community and have been working here a long time.”