Pressures remain despite new tower

Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s new tower may be open, but concerns about overcrowding continue.

Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s new tower may be open, but concerns about overcrowding continue.

Just two days after the Polson tower was unveiled Sept. 25, doctors say there were 155  patients although VJH is funded for 148 acute care beds.

“The hospital is still way over census, and operating rooms are still being cancelled,” said Dr. Ed Hardy, medical staff president and an oncologist.

“This is following on the heels of a summer of OR slowdowns pending the new move, so all of the surgeons have a backlog already. I am expecting a tidal wave of new cancer consults when the surgeons can get their patients in.”

On Monday, the Interior Health Authority stated the census was 141 in the afternoon while it was 153 in the evening, according to doctors.

While some politicians suggested the new tower  would alleviate pressure at VJH, Dr. Chris Cunningham insists that isn’t the case.

“There are still patients housed in makeshift wards like MASH units, crowded into small rooms and alcoves,” said Cunningham, who has been part of a group lobbying for two floors in the tower to be completed for beds.

“This is indecent to continue to care for patients in this way.”

Cunningham says such conditions don’t allow for privacy and can lead to higher infection rates.

“The new tower is an excellent facility providing modern facilities and services to assess patients in ER, operate on, or deliver a baby,” he said.

“But the issue of overcrowding and patient care on wards continues to remain the same and will so until those top two floors are provided for acute care bed wards,” he said.

Interior Health Authority officials believe the tower has had a positive influence on congestion.

“Occupancy has not been as high as it has been,” said Allan Sinclair, vice-president of acute services.

“The pressure is a lot less. Census has not been full yet.”

Sinclair expects a more accurate indication of how the tower impacts overcrowding in two weeks when all operating rooms are running and there is a better sense of how the building functions.

“There are all kinds of annoyances just like if you move into a new house. But we are pleased with  what we’ve got,” he said.

Health Minister Michael de Jong has indicated that there may be no decision on additional acute care beds at VJH until the end of the year.

“I’m not letting up on the lobbying,” said Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster, adding he’s not surprised it’s taking time for the ministry to determine if the project will proceed.

“There are huge financial challenges and that’s what we’re working out. My priority is the beds but I had people in my office who want group homes (for the developmentally challenged). There isn’t a bottomless pit of money.”