"Patients are suffering": BC doctors plead for help amid "unsafe" ER conditions

May 16 2023, 10:14 pm

Emergency room doctors from Surrey Memorial Hospital have penned a letter sharing how “unsafe” conditions are in the hospital.

While the Minister of Health describes the conditions as challenging, the physicians say “an important point is missing.”

“Patients are suffering severe adverse outcomes including death at SMH,” the letter reads.

The doctors go on to share three “critical issues” the hospital is facing.

According to the letter, ER doctors have also been told by the Fraser Health Authority to refrain from openly discussing the challenges.

Scute care beds shortage

The first issue raised is the “severe shortage of acute care beds,” which is leading to congested ERs.

Admitted patients are instead waiting in ERs and taking up beds and nursing support meant to treat incoming emergencies.

“This bed-block forces us to routinely treat strokes, heart attacks, traumas, miscarriages and palliative patients in the hallway,” the letter reads.

“This is completely unacceptable and is getting worse despite the attention of the Ministry.”

Hospitalist Physicians shortage

Secondly, the doctors say Fraser Health is also in a dire shortage of Hospitalist Physicians who would admit most patients from the ER to the hospital wards.

“Today, if a patient is admitted from the ER to hospital, it is common for them to linger for days without an admitting physician looking after them; many patients have suffered, and some have died while waiting,” the letter continues.

If Hospitalist Physicians see patients in a timely manner, the doctors say, “We believe that some of these horrible outcomes could have been prevented.”

Doctor’s “repeatedly sounding the alarm”

According to the letter, despite “repeatedly sounding the alarm,” elected officials have not created meaningful solutions to tackle the issues doctors are facing.

Instead, they say the congested Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency department has continued to worsen over the years.

“The result of these shortcomings is predictable. Many patients are receiving substandard care. SMH Emergency Physicians are doing the best they can with limited resources, but we need [the public’s] help to advocate for meaningful solutions,” the letter reads.

“We are asking for transparency and accountability from our elected leaders.”

This open letter was in response to the Doctors of BC release last week, which said, “Our emergency departments are on red alert.”

According to the Doctors of BC statement, a concerned physician sent an email advising Lower Mainland doctors to avoid sending patients who need urgent medical attention to Langley Memorial Hospital, which has been “overrun with patients” and near collapse.

“This is not an isolated incident. What is happening at Langley hospital is taking place in emergency departments (EDs) across the province,” Doctors of BC added.

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