Delta Hospital ER short-staffed say doctors
Emergency room doctors at Delta Hospital say they are understaffed, and the problem is leading to longer wait times. ER visits at the hospital are up 20 per cent over the past four years according to Fraser Health, and ER physician Kevin Shi says the health authority needs to increase staffing to accommodate the extra patients.
Shi is part of a provincial campaign organized by B.C. ER doctors asking the provincial government to ensure physician staffing in all ERs reflect increased patient visits, staffing is adjusted in a timely way based on trends to ensure safe patient care, and that standards for how long sick patients wait for an inpatient bed are set and enforced consistently at all hospitals.
Currently, the Delta Hospital ER has only a single physician working at a time from 8 p.m. to 11:30 a.m.
“First thing in the morning, that’s one of the busiest times of day in the ER,” said Shi. “During that time, if even one really sick patient comes in, it can monopolize our time, and that leads to longer waits in the ER.”
The longer patients take to be seen by a doctor, the more likelihood a serious illness isn’t recognized in time. Recently, Shi said he saw a patient who needed stitches after cutting himself badly on a table saw at work. However, the man spent six hours in the ER before he saw a doctor.
Fraser Health spokesperson Roy Thorpe-Dorward said the health authority doesn’t disagree with Shi’s assessment.
“We take the concerns of our frontline workers, our ER doctors and nurses, very seriously,” he said.
However, he added, funding levels are determined provincially.
Part of the problem at Delta Hospital is a shortage of inpatient beds at the hospital, which backs up patients in the ER. Thorpe-Dorward said the 150 new beds slated for Surrey Memorial, as well as 427 new residential care beds planned for the Fraser Health Region by 2015, will add capacity to the system and allow Delta patients to be more easily transferred if necessary. Fraser Health is also working to expand programs that make sure the patients that go to the ER belong there, by providing alternatives for those managing chronic diseases.
Shi agreed that some of the steps Fraser Health has taken are working.
The number of inpatient admissions from the ER within 10 hours of arriving is up 58 per cent last year, from just 20 per cent the year before. However, investments in primary care and residential care may help three or four years down the road, and there is an urgent need for another doctor in the Delta Hospital ER, says Shi.
“We need two physicians for the majority of the day, right now.”