Alarm sounded over closed beds

Emergency room stretchers are sitting empty at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Emergency room stretchers are sitting empty at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Physicians and nurses are concerned over recent Interior Health Authority decisions to  close emergency room stretchers for specific time periods.

“This is unsafe for patients,” said Dr. Michael Concannon, spokesperson for ER doctors.

“Patients are pushed into the waiting room instead of being placed in stretchers where they can be assessed and treated by physicians and nurses.  This is not good for patients who come in with heart attacks and other conditions.”

There were four stretchers closed for 12 hours on Friday and Saturday night.

“Three of the closed beds were beds with cardiac monitors,” said Concannon.

“There were similar closures overnight midweek last week.”

Concannon is concerned patient care is being put at risk.

“The emergency department is an essential service for the community. It should be open and fully staffed through hell and high water,” he said.

“Closing stretchers is never an option.  I repeat, closing stretchers is never an option.”

IHA says ER stretchers are partially being closed because of a lack of nurses, but the B.C. Nurses Union claims IHA is responsible for the situation.

“They run so close to the base line with staff that when a nurse goes on sick leave or holidays, there is not another nurse available,” said Christine Sorensen, BCNU regional chairperson.

Sorensen also says patient overcrowding has forced nurses to take stress and medical leave.

“If you’ve worked your four shifts and then two overtime, and you’re expected back for your four shifts, you need time to re-energize,” she said.

“If it’s not safe to return to work because of exhaustion, they won’t return to work. They are burning out.”

Sorensen also claims IHA has done little to recruit new nurses.

“We’d love to see them do internal training which would open positions up,” she said of just trying to lure nurses from outside of Vernon here.

IHA officials defend their actions.

“We had some stretchers closed while we determine the best way to assign nurses to the work that needs to be done,” said Nancy Serwo, acute area director.

“We didn’t have all of our nurses available Friday evening. And sometimes when we are over-capacity, we need to assign nurses where needed.”

IHA is currently in the midst of recruiting new nurses.

“We’re being successful at that,” said Serwo.

Serwo denies patients should be concerned about  ER stretchers being closed.

“We still provide excellent and safe care and no one is turned away.”