Since dozens of doctors warned in the spring that a resource crisis had created “unsafe conditions” and “poor outcomes” for patients at Surrey Memorial Hospital, B.C.’s health minister said progress has been made to address some concerns.
Over the summer, the province and Fraser Health have posted 64 new health-care positions to the ailing hospital, which suffers from a constantly clogged emergency room, as well as added 10 patient ambassadors to improve care.
A new care and triage department was established in July, an on-site clinical counsellor is now available for hospital staff, and additional physicians have been added to the rotation in the emergency department’s satellite clinic — just to name a few measures, Adrian Dix said Friday.
“There’s extraordinary demand in our health-care system — not just here in Surrey, but in Abbotsford and everywhere else in the province,” he said after a meeting with hospital staff and Fraser Health officials.
“It is not easy. It is as hard as it could be and you can’t solve all problems instantly.”
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In May, dozens of doctors and midwives penned letters to health-care officials and the public stating that quality of care in at Surrey Memorial Hospital is in real jeopardy and has already compromised public safety.
One letter from women’s health-care providers stated that the strain on resources had resulted in outcomes that “fall sharply below the standard for a tertiary level maternity care centre in our province,” and even suggested it had contributed to one infant’s death, “countless near misses” and grave “moral injury.”
Another letter from emergency room doctors warned of “unsafe conditions” and a failure to communicate the breadth of the “crisis to patients and the public,” while the former medical director of Surrey Memorial Hospital said the crisis had reached a “boiling point,” marked by a shortage of house doctors and acute care beds.
He told Global News he wouldn’t send his own family there for care.
The president of the Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Medical Staff Association also raised concerns about “systemic” and disproportionate underfunding. She noted that Vancouver has four emergency departments to serve 650,000 people in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region, but Surrey only has one to serve its 530,000-plus residents.
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In June, Dix promised to expand Surrey Memorial Hospital and release details of the project in the fall. The province has announced 30 measures to address grievances in Surrey health care, after “years of neglect.”
Surrey’s beleaguered hospital will see an expansion of spaces for renal care, more beds and staff in neonatal intensive care, a cardiac catheterization lab, interventional radiology, and a doubling of internal medicine beds, he added.
A new clinical services plan for surgery for specialty needs is also expected to be completed next month.
Despite these measures, however, health-care practitioners are holding a rally on Saturday outside Surrey City Hall tp demand immediate and sustained improvements, citing a “lack of proactive planning and chronic underinvestment.”
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On TikTok, Dr. Randeep Gill, who has worked at Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency department for a decade, called on members of the public to join physicians in the protest, to “demand the funding and attention we deserve.”
He said in his time at the hospital, he’s seen thousands of Surrey moms diverted to Vancouver hospitals to give birth due to a lack of capacity on-site, but he’s never once heard of the reverse happening.
“The illest children and the sickest adults need to be transferred out of Surrey Memorial Hospital for a higher level of care because we do not have the life-saving interventions here, locally, at south of the Fraser,” he said in the video.
“Yet this happens every single day, has happened for decades. This would never be acceptable if this were a resident of Vancouver that needed to leave their city for life-saving interventions when time is of the essence.”
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While Fraser Health representatives attended Friday’s update, they did not address reporters.
In a previous interview with Global News, however, the health authority’s CEO Dr. Victoria Lee has said “everybody is doing their best to ensure they are doing their best care for patients that are in front of them,” and she would have no hesitation in sending her family there.
Dix has previously said that Lee has his full confidence as leader of Fraser Health.
As it stands, the minister said some 9,700 people are currently in acute care in B.C. hospitals — about 700 more than health authorities would usually expect this time year.
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