Increased number of flu cases at Abbotsford Hospital ER worries B.C. nurses union

The B.C. nurses union says emergency room nurses were pushed to their limit over the weekend.
The B.C. Nurses Union says flu season is having a big impact on the emergency room at Abbotsford Hospital. (CBC)

The B.C. Nurses Union says patients waited up to eight hours in the emergency room to see a physician at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on Friday.

It's calling on Fraser Health to do more to relieve congestion and better support staff, after it claims patients were placed in shower rooms and in hallways. 

"We had nurses in tears highly distressed about the quality of care they were able to provide," said Christine Sorensen, the union's acting president.

There are spikes in admission this time of year because of the flu, said Sorensen. She said 57 patients were admitted to the hospital on Friday. 

"This is an annual event. We have heard for years about what they call winter surge related to influenza ... I just do not understand why Fraser Health is caught off guard and can't do better planning for this," she said. 

Fraser Health's medical health officer, Dr. Martin Lavoie, said facilities did and do prepare for the influx. 

"But at same time, we are also at the mercy of whatever comes in as well. If all of a sudden we have more severe disease or larger number of people, that will put pressure on our system," said Dr. Lavoie.

Sick with the flu? Avoid the hospital

Just last week, health officials asked people who are otherwise healthy —but sick with the flu — to stay away from emergency rooms because very few require treatment beyond rest and fluids.

Going to hospitals exposes others to the virus, especially those with weakened immune systems or other health complications. It also ties up medical resources for those who might need them more.

Fraser Health and other health authorities recommend that if people are worried about about their condition, they should first call their doctor.

If they don't have a doctor, go to a walk-in clinic or call HealthLink B.C. by dialling 811. Its non-emergency telephone service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and connects people seeking health advice with government nurses.

Meanwhile, health officials are still encouraging people to get a flu shot.