Thursday, March 29, 2012

Attitudes toward hosptial overcrowding

Seating in the lunch room at work, eating my lunch I listened to younger colleagues talking about the treatment their parents received in the local hospitals. One of the men talked about his mother and how she was kept in Emergency for six days before she was moved to a quieter section of Emergency and this was happening as she was dying. Another young man talked about how his father was in emergency for five days before he was able to get a bed, which he had for a week before he died.

What struck me was the apparent casual acceptance of this level of care given by the hospitals,  by the families. In their conversations these young people appeared to accept that this level of care in a public hospital is the new normal.

Back in the 60's my aunt died in a hospital hallway while awaiting treatment, but at that time there was a huge outcry and outrage by the community and steps were taken to ensure the quality of care was better for other patients in that hospital. Today that appears not to be the case. We accept poor care, we accept the excuses given by overpaid administrators, we accept the under staffing of our hospitals, because we accept the myth that there is a problem with funding of health care.

An example of this change of attitude can be seen from the following:

It’s a good bet that overcrowding like this is going to happen again in the not-too-distant future. So, what can a individual do themselves to avoid adding to overcrowding in British Columbia’s hospitals?

Likely the best thing to do is to avoid visiting the hospital at all by preventing yourself from injury.

After all, Preventable injuries are the #1 killer of British Columbians between the ages of 1 and 44 ( According to 2004 data, “Preventable injuries cost each person in BC $665 per year“.

Lack of beds is common complaint about B.C.’s hospitals, and with each bed comes a cost. The financial costs of preventable injuries could be spent on new hospital beds or other areas that could benefit the health of British Columbians. Not becoming a patient in the hospital not only helps your heath, but can possibly help the health of others.

The above was written by  a registered non-profit organization, The Community is governed by a board of directors representing organizations including the BCAA Road Safety Foundation, Insurance Bureau of Canada, London Drugs Ltd., BC Ministry of Labour, Pacific Blue Cross, TELUS and WorkSafeBC. In addition, The Community’s work is made possible through the financial and in-kind support of over 30 other companies and organizations.
Overcrowding and ambulance diversion
Emergency department (ED) overcrowding has reached crisis proportions. Many factors are blamed, but, regardless of the cause, the bottom line is that EDs are gridlocked. In most systems an overburdened ED can place itself on "bypass" status, forcing ambulances to divert to the next most appropriate facility. As more hospitals go on bypass, patients accumulate at the remaining facilities until those facilities are also full and no one is accepting patients. Ambulance crews drive in circles and make multiple phone calls while patients suffer delays to definitive care. When an overcrowded ED finally accepts them, ambulance crews are often forced to wait in a corridor with their patient until a bed eventually becomes available. This is increasingly the norm in the Greater Vancouver area.

Source:  written by Karen Wanger MD, Emergency medical services controversies in British Columbia, Department of Emergency Medicine, St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, BC; Regional Medical Consultant, BC Ambulance Service

The situation at Royal Columbian Hospital is reminiscent of last March, when the facility's Tim Horton's coffee shop was turned into a makeshift ward to handle patient overflow.
Fraser Health acknowledges that the situation is "not ideal," but says early January is typically one of the busiest times of year for hospitals due to seasonal illness and weather-related injuries.

"What we have is a congested hospital site where we need to make use of available overflow space, including hallways and patient care areas outside of the rooms," spokesman Roy Thorpe-Doward told CTV News
But critics say the situation puts undue stress on patients, and warrants an immediate response.

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