‘It’s a disaster:’ Women’s deaths in North Van, Ashcroft blamed on shortage of ER staff

A shortage of hospital staff has led to the closure of rural hospitals and at least three people seeking emergency care have died in the past year.


Health Minister Adrian Dix should resign or be fired, BC Liberals said, in light of the death of a patient who spent two days on a gurney in a crowded and sick North Vancouver hospital waiting room. little staff.

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“It’s a disaster. We have a health care crisis, there’s no doubt about that,” said Peter Milobar, financial critic at BC Liberal. “And the only one who doesn’t seem to really want to acknowledge that is the health minister, surprisingly.” ”.

Milobar noted that after a patient died waiting in a Fredericton emergency department last week, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs fired the province’s health minister and head of the health authority.

Multiple emergency rooms in rural hospitals have been forced to temporarily close this spring and summer due to staffing shortages. And there have been at least three incidents in the span of a year where people lost their lives waiting for emergency care.

At Lions Gate Hospital, an elderly woman died July 11 after being on a stretcher for at least two days in the emergency waiting room, which employees said was understaffed. Vancouver Coastal Health said they are now reviewing the incident.

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On Sunday in Ashcroft, a woman who lives on the same block as the local hospital, which was closed at the time due to lack of staff, died after going into cardiac arrest and an ambulance took 30 minutes to arrive, according to details. provided by Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Last September, a 70-year-old patient died in the emergency department waiting room at the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. After that incident, Dix said there would be a thorough review of what went wrong.

Doctors of BC President Dr. Josh Greggain.
Doctors of BC President Dr. Josh Greggain. jpg

This crisis in the primary care system began before COVID-19 and there is no simple solution, said Doctors of BC President-elect Dr. Josh Greggain. For example, hospitals need more nurses, doctors, and allied health workers, and more long-term care beds are needed to move stable elderly patients out of hospitals to alleviate long waits in emergency rooms.

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“When terrible things happen, like what happened at Ashcroft, at Fredericton, as well as at Lions Gate,” he said, “we need to move forward with significant investment in our human resources as well as our actual physical resources to make sure that these kinds of of situations will never happen again.”

Greggain said he wishes he could be more optimistic, but until there is systemic improvement in the health care system, British Columbians should probably expect more emergency room closures and disruptions this summer.

“There are not enough doctors. There is not enough emergency space. There are not enough nurses. There are not enough family doctors. Not enough people are getting the care they need to keep them out of the ER, or once they are in the ER, system issues, including bed shortages and understaffing, continue to affect everyone patients around the world. province,” she said.

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It is not just the patients affected by this shortage, but also the healthcare workers in these overcrowded and understaffed hospital units. Adriane Gear, vice president of the BC Nurses Union, visited Lions Gate nurses this week who are still distraught that they can’t do more to help the woman who died in their waiting room.

“The nurses believe this was something that could have been prevented if that patient had had access to real emergency care, which would have included being monitored,” she said. “This is not the first time this has happened (a death in an emergency waiting room). They don’t think it will be the last. They are devastated.”

Gear added that it is “deaf” of Dix to say in previous interviews that this shortage is due to employees calling in sick. While he acknowledged that nurses get COVID, he argued that Lions Gate ER has 30 unfilled nursing vacancies due to a lack of staff recruitment and retention.

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BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau said it’s clear that every aspect of the health system, from ambulance care to emergency rooms to primary care, has been crippled by staffing shortages “and the cost of that is measured in lives.”

Furstenau and Milobar noted that BC Ferries’ board of directors fired its chairman after ferry cancellations and poor performance, but the same standard is not applied to health authorities or the Ministry of Health.

Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden said that since the woman’s death on Sunday, she has heard from residents of the community of 1,500 who are angry that more is not being done to prevent the closure of the hospital. Roden spoke with Interior Health on Friday about consistency with her emergency department so residents don’t have to check Facebook forums to find out if it’s open.

The deaths in her community and in North Vancouver should be a wake-up call about the consequences of not acting fast enough to address the shortage of health care personnel, Roden said.

“You know, we have the (hospital) facilities in many communities, but how do we make sure these facilities don’t become mausoleums?”

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