New beds still needed

  • Apr. 17, 2011 5:00 a.m.

I hope everyone had a chance to read the page-long article titled “Is VGH’s New Tower Enough?” printed in last Sunday’s Morning Star and also in the Sunday edition the week before.

In it Dr. Ed Hardy, president of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Medical Staff, does an excellent job of explaining the problems that cause the constant overcrowding at our hospital and suggesting solutions that would finally resolve these issues. While lauding the new facilities that the tower will provide, such as a new ER, Intensive Care, the Outpatient Department, Labour and Delivery/Pediatric and providing new operating rooms he again confirms that not one new bed will be provided and indeed because of the design of the new Labour, Delivery/ Pediatric floor in the Tower we may have up to six fewer beds after the move.

VGH has 148 funded acute care beds, beds supposed to be used for people who need hospitalization for some acute event or recovering from surgery.  Over the last few years VGH has been consistently over capacity by about 14 – 20 per cent, which translates into 21 to 28 patients routinely housed in hallways, outpatients’ rooms and the cast room. These beds are not funded by the ministry but are a daily reality and have been for some time.

Consistently, Dr. Hardy tells us, 10 to 20 percent of our hospital patients are not appropriate for hospital because they do not qualify as needing “acute care.” Although they do need ALC, an Alternative Level of Care. This may be someone who fell and broke their hip or have had a stroke and are not able to go home and function independently anymore. They need a higher level of care and should be moved to a long-term care facility. Unfortunately we do not have enough long-term beds in Vernon and patients are stuck in hospitals for long periods of time, an average of 126 days, according to Dr. Hardy in his article.

The bottom line is there will not be one new bed available when we celebrate the Tower opening and indeed we will probably have six fewer beds. We need both new beds in our hospital and new long-term care beds to address this constant problem. We also need more supports in our community so that people who want to, and are able to, can go back to their homes and avoid expensive institutionalized care. Dr Hardy says that if we wish to get the attention of the Ministry of Health here in Vernon, public support is crucial. The system everywhere is stretched so it is important for Vernon’s voice to be heard above the rest. To do this he suggests that we talk to our friends and neighbours to inform them of the bed shortage problem. Phone or write your local MLA, Eric Foster at 250-503-3600, to ask for more funded beds and phone or write the new Minister of Health, the Hon. Michael de Jong, MLA for Abbotsford at 250-953-3547 to ask for more funded beds. Then attend local information sessions or meetings and ask questions of politicians and future candidates.

Again, the same old bean counters are critical of our municipal politicians and ranting about tax hikes in a recent letter to the editor in The Morning Star. Hate to tell you, Buddy, but most of us, even those of us on limited income, do not consider this one per cent increase an undue hardship if our services remain the same and given the tough economic times, I think our politicians did a good job to keep the budget in line.

If you have any comments or questions, please contact me at 250-542-7928 or e-mail me at blackmail1@telus.net.

Pat Black is the falls prevention coordinator at the Seniors Information and Resource Bureau and The Morning Star’s seniors’ columnist.