Emergency!Life in a St. John's ER
Deanne's interview with Dr. Scott Wilson
CBC reporter Deanne Fleet was assigned to look at the situation in emergency rooms in St. John's hospitals. What she discovered was a jammed emergency room at the Health Sciences Centre, exacerbated by a bottleneck caused by patients deemed sick enough to be admitted to hospital, but who are waiting to get upstairs to a ward. Often those people end up in the corridors. Dr. Scott Wilson, Eastern Health's chief of emergency services says patients lining the hallways is why others have to wait six hours to have that sore throat or chest pain checked on.
Deanne's Interview with Pamela Collins
Pamela Collins has been an ER nurse for nine years - a job she says is challenging, but in recent years has become so frustrating that sometimes she goes home and cries.
75,000 people went through the emergency rooms in St. John's last year. Eastern Health says the people who show up now are older, sicker and often have multiple problems. The average wait at the Health Sciences is about five hours, but nurses like Collins see waits of twelve hours.
On one recent day, more than half the beds at the Health Sciences emergency room, which has 22 beds for emergencies, are filled with people deemed so sick they must be admitted. Collins has no place to put those people except the corridor because there are no beds upstairs in the hospital to send them.
Collins says if there are 22 beds, and 16 beds are occupied by patients who should be on the floor then that means there are only have six beds to operate the trauma center for the entire province.
Hospitals won't put someone on a ward if there aren't enough nurses to care for them or if all the ward beds are full. And with the shortage of nurses here that's often the case.
Deanne's Interview with Cathy Burke
Cathy Burke, a manager of emergency and ambulance services with Eastern Health, says there is no reason for people using the emergency room to worry. She says patient safety is utmost in the health authority's mind and it wants to makes sure patients get the best quality care. Burke also says Eastern Health just hired consultants to do a patient flow study.
DAY ONE (between 16:00 and 24:00 on a Tuesday)
It ended up being what I would say is typical in this emergency room. Patients arriving toward the beginning of this shift waited an average of two hours before being called, and I generally saw them leave about two hours later, indicating a wait time (on average) of four hours.
DAY TWO (between 00:00 and 06:00 on a Saturday)
This was by far the most interesting shift I spent in emergency. There were 21 people waiting when I arrived, and when I left at 6:00 a.m., only five patients had been called. One woman who told me she arrived at 7:00 p.m. the previous evening was told she wouldn't be seen until 4 or 5 a.m., and ended up leaving at 2. A gentleman I spoke with around 2:30 a.m. told me he had just been warned he wouldn't be seen until 9 or 10 that morning, and was still there when I left.
This shift was absolutely the least staffed, and the impact on waiting room dynamics was evident throughout. I witnessed vomiting (multiple), screaming (from patient to nurse), drunken staggering and additional injury while in the waiting room, and agonizing sobbing. Almost everyone who left before I did at 6:00 a.m. did so out of exasperation, and had not seen by a doctor.
DAY THREE (between 09:00 and 15:30 on a Thursday)
This shift was exceptionally fast and efficient. When I arrived there were 14 people waiting. Between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., almost 20 new patients arrived. All of these patients had been called (and most had been seen and already gone home) by the time I left at 3:00 p.m.
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