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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak hits first Greater Victoria hospital

Island Health declares outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by former Saanich resident surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

Athletes with Fairway Gorge Paddling Club’s open men’s staff head out on a high-tech outrigger canoe. The club raised more than $16,500 at its 2020 Wetdasche event. (Courtesy of Fairway Gorge Paddling Club)
Victoria paddling group breaks fundraising record

Fairway Gorge Paddling Club’s 2020 Wetdashe event raises more than $16,500

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign outside municipal hall on Dec. 1. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Tech offers hope as Salvation Army sees need skyrocket across B.C.

Charity is equipping hundreds of kettles across B.C. with ‘touchless giving technology’

Kathy MacNeil, president and chief executive officer of Island Health, Dawn Thomas, acting deputy health minister and Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation, stand out Saanich Peninsula Hospital Tuesday morning, when they also answered questions about a new report that “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system. (Island Health/Submitted)
Head of Island Health says Saanich Peninsula Hospital not part of racist guessing game

Tsartlip First Nations Chief Don Tom welcomes changes following report but promises future scrutiny

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

A man stands in the window of an upper floor condo in Vancouver on March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Change made to insurance for B.C. condo owners amid rising premiums

Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Most Read