Doctors sound overcrowding alarm

A decision on more acute care beds is looming, but Vernon Jubilee Hospital physicians fear that action may come too late for some patients.

A decision on more acute care beds is looming, but Vernon Jubilee Hospital physicians fear that action may come too late for some patients.

Doctors say the highest number of patients in nine months has been during the last four weeks.

“The admitted number of patients, daily, has been between 160 to 179, or eight to 20 per cent over-capacity,” said Dr. Chris Cunningham, with medical staff.

“To think that in the past we were concerned with capacity numbers in the 150s and 160s. And this is even with the operating rooms not running at full capacity, so not producing post-operative patients needing beds.”

However, the Interior Health Authority is providing a different interpretation of conditions.

“The last four weeks haven’t been any busier than at other times,” said Nancy Serwo, acute area director.

“Since Nov. 1, there have been only 10 days over 110 per cent capacity which isn’t unreasonable for any other site in the province.”

Cunningham says makeshift wards have been set up in vacant spaces in the old part of the hospital.

“These are indecent and compromise care and safety and infection control is compromised,” he said.

“With the overcrowding and blocked beds we still see delays in elective surgeries. This also affects delays in joint replacements and cancer surgeries.”

Serwo says action has been taken to meet the needs of patients, including opening nine winter surgical beds and using the vacated 3 North for alternate level care patients.

“There is a dining room and activity room for them and ceiling lifts,” she said.

Cunningham believes the only solution is completing the two shelled-in floors in the Polson tower and providing operating funds for beds.

“Overcapacity is caused by both patients who should be in complex care and patients who require acute care. Acute care cannot be delivered in a nursing home,” he said.

“Complex care cannot be cared for adequately in many current community settings.”

Renovating vacant space is not an option, according to Cunningham.

“The IHA’s site development report of 2006 stated that the old portions of VJH are near the end of their expected life and it is structurally and economically not feasible to renovate or build upon,” he said.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, met recently with the physicians as part of his campaign to have more acute care beds opened in the tower.

“We are waiting on the Treasury Board to determine what we will do with capital funds. I hope we will hear something soon,” said Foster.

Health Minister Michael de Jong has stated that an announcement regarding beds could be made by early in the new year.

“We’re in a waiting game. It’s really in the hands of the ministry,” said Serwo.