The new emergency room that opened in October at Surrey Memorial Hospital is already overcrowded, say residents, despite it being the second-largest facility in Canada.
The provincial government committed $492 million to the new facility, which is the size of three NHL ice rinks, to help cope with almost 100,000 patient visits every year.
It has a separate pediatric emergency department, with its own entrance, private treatment rooms, a family area and a care team on site around the clock.
But Tom Scott, whose 76-year-old mother was brought into the new ER by ambulance with chest pains last week, says she ended up spending hours in a bed in the hallway along with a number of other patients.
"My mum was kind of confused, like 'Why am I being put out in the hallway? This is the ER, I'm supposed to be dealt with'," said Scott.
"The people that came in with [these patients], the family members, there were no chairs to sit in. Nothing. So we are all cramped in this hall."
Scott said at one point, he heard there were 12 people in beds in the hall. He thinks the problem is a lack of staff.
"The facility's nice and … the people are great. The nurses, the paramedics, the doctors — everybody in there is fantastic. They just seem to be really overworked," he said.
More community capacity?
Deborah McPherson of the B.C. Nurses Union agrees with Scott.
"One woman described it as a gong show. She just simply cannot keep up with the pace of the work," said McPherson.
"The reality is unless you build more acute capacity, more community capacity, more long-term care capacity to exit the people from the emergency room, that impact is going to be there and it's going to grow."
Fraser Health Authority president and CEO Dr. Nigel Murray says new ERs always experience higher numbers of patients visiting when they open — in this case, an 18 per cent increase — but the numbers are now trending downwards.
"We have had a huge recruitment drive to bring new staff into Surrey Memorial Hospital for the emergency department and the brand-new [critical care] tower," said Murray.
"We've opened up about 20 new beds in response to the growth in attendances … and in June, we'll have 151 new beds in the critical care tower."
The provincial government has ordered a review of the health authority, and a report is due out in the spring of 2014.
For Scott, change can't come soon enough. He said the problem isn't just with the health authority, and the province needs to step up and make health care a priority.
"Somebody is going to die, or something bad is going to happen if they don't do something about it…. I was really disappointed," he said.
Scott said his mother is now back in hospital undergoing treatment.