A photo taken by Mark Sernes shows his bed in a hallway at the Campbell River hospital.

A photo taken by Mark Sernes shows his bed in a hallway at the Campbell River hospital.

New Campbell River hospital ‘overcrowded,’ says patient placed in hallway

Problem signals need for more funded beds as hospitals face capacity crunch – nurses’ union

A patient is decrying overcrowded conditions at Campbell River’s new hospital after his bed was placed in a hallway, and his story is raising questions about capacity issues in the provincial health care system.

“The hospital is just over capacity,” said Campbell River resident Mark Sernes, who was hospitalized recently for an acute pancreatic condition. “Fantastic facility, but unfortunately it’s just too small.”

Mark Sernes had a bed in a double-occupancy room at the hospital, where he was recovering after three nights of intensive care last month.

He spent two nights in a general ward before staff moved his bed into a hallway on Nov. 29.

With people constantly walking through a nearby door, he said, the area was noisy and there was no privacy.

“There would be no way anyone could get any sleep there,” Sernes said. “It would be next to impossible, unless they were heavily sedated.”

Sernes asked for his medication and went home, saying he’d return for tests the next day at 6 a.m.

“I basically refused to stay there,” he said, adding that the experience was highly stressful.

Sernes later asked staff why he’d been shunted into the hallway. A nurse told him that he was considered mobile and the healthiest person in the ward. Sernes said no doctors were involved in the decision.

“They’re making these decisions on whether somebody’s mobile or not, or can go to the bathroom by themselves,” Sernes said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the healthiest person.”

READ MORE: Changes coming to Campbell River transit routes downtown and to hospital

It wasn’t the first time Sernes had experienced hospital overcrowding. During a stay at Campbell River’s old hospital, he was placed in a hallway bed – and he said it aggravated his condition.

Sernes stressed that he’s not blaming staff, but rather that his problem is with an overburdened health care system.

“Everyone’s just doing their best but overworked,” Sernes said.

He urged other patients to come forward with their concerns.

“That’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere, if we stand in numbers,” he said.

Story continues below image.

Local resident Mark Sernes is speaking out about what he calls overcrowded conditions at the Campbell River hospital. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

The Mirror reported in 2012 that the old hospital was “overflowing.” The following year, a group of doctors – along with MLA Claire Trevena, who is now Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure – spoke out about plans for the 95-bed facility, saying it wouldn’t be enough for patients’ needs.

The doctors also said they felt they’d been “coerced” into accepting plans for the new facility, which opened last year.

BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) president Christine Sorensen said on Tuesday that the union is completely opposed to “hallway nursing” but that it’s becoming the new normal.

“Patients languishing in hallways is considered unacceptable,” she said. “We have always said that hallway nursing in any hospital poses a risk to safe patient care.”

Those risks include the outbreak of infections and blocked emergency exits, Sorensen said. She also noted that it causes distress among nurses because it prevents them from providing quality care.

Sorensen said that while seasonal maladies like the flu account for some of the overcrowding, B.C.’s health care system faces a number of complex issues.

Too few nurses are stretched among a growing number of patients, an issue that’s been worsening significantly over the past 5-7 years, Sorensen said.

Community health and long-term care services – which are meant to reduce pressure on hospital beds – also fall short, meaning that people end up back in the hospital, Sorensen said. She called for a greater number of funded beds.

“We encourage patients who need acute care services in the emergency room to come – nurses will be there to provide the care they need – unfortunately, that may be in a hallway, and it is not how nurses like to provide care,” she said.

READ MORE: Family looking for help after baby born two months premature

Island Health said in a statement that hospitals across the province are “incredibly busy” and that “capacity issues are an ongoing challenge, particularly when seasonal illnesses such as influenza (are) a factor.”

When patient surges occur, hospitals open temporary overflow areas and “all patients are cared for with appropriate staffing levels,” according to the statement, which was attributed to Dermot Kelly, a regional executive director with Island Health.

“In extremely busy times, we may care for patients in areas such as hallways,” Kelly said, adding that certain protocols are in place to “provide the best care possible” in those cases.

Kelly acknowledged that staff are stretched at the Campbell River and Comox Valley hospitals, noting that those facilities have some 90 job vacancies combined. Both areas have rental and housing affordability issues, creating problems for staff recruitment and retention, he said.

He noted strategies are underway to address capacity problems, including “work to reduce the length of stay within hospital and improve access to care in the community,” citing a variety of measures geared towards people with mental health or substance abuse issues, and services for the medically frail.

READ MORE: Man suffering heart attack not allowed to board Quadra Island ferry

He also pointed to $75 million in spending the B.C. government announced in June for the expansion of respite care and adult day programs, which are meant to take pressure off of those who provide care to friends and relatives at home or in the community.

Kelly also said Island Health has increased the number of surgeries being performed at hospitals on the North Island in accordance with a provincial government surgical strategy announced in March.

“While this has resulted in more surgeries being performed and reduced wait times, it has increased the number (of) hospital visits and stays,” said Kelly, who is responsible for the North Island region and part of the central coast.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada has 2.5 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants, the fifth-lowest rate among the OECD’s 36 countries.


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cheyenne, six, Savannah, three, and Jeremiah Sinclair, 8, were out on walk with their mother on June 4 when they discovered the first of several hundred fish that died after bleach leaked into Reay Creek. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Spill in Sidney’s Reay Creek turns into ecological lesson for local children

Federal-provincial investigation ongoing into what appears to be a bleach spill

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read