Chalmers hospital chief surgeon frustrated by bed crunch

The chief surgeon at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton says too many surgeries are being cancelled because patients who should be in alternate care such as nursing homes are taking up hospital beds.

People ready for nursing homes, other care are using about 25% of Horizon Health's hosptial beds

The chief surgeon at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton says says too many surgeries are being cancelled because patients who should be in alternate care. 2:14

The chief surgeon at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton says too many surgeries are being cancelled because patients who should be in alternate care such as nursing homes are taking up hospital beds.

Dr. Ben Hoyt says on any given day there are about 300 such patients in Horizon Health Network hospitals.

Hoyt says there were 92 such patients at the Fredericton hospital on Monday, accounting for 29 per cent of the hospital's 315 beds and four surgeries had to be cancelled.

Hoyt says more than 33 elective surgeries have been cancelled since September for similar reasons.

Dr. Ben Hoyt is the chief of surgery at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton. (Catherine Harrop / CBC)
"The surgeons are there, they want to do it," he said.

"The anaesthesiologists are there. They want to do it. The nurses are there being paid.

"There's no room. There's no room at the inn," he said.

"We're all filled up and we can't do it and it's because we don't have excess capacity. We don't have extra beds."

Hoyt said the problem has been building for a long time and hospital officials have tried to make do by shuffling patients and moving beds "to keep the ship afloat."

"But we've come to a head. We can't keep going like this. We need it fixed."

Hoyt said he sent a letter about the issue to the departments of health and social development in October, but has yet to hear back.

Hoyt says he was speaking publicly about the issue with the knowledge of senior officials at the hospital.

"They all know that it's a chronic issue that is not going to get better without drastic change at the government level," he said.

"They're all supportive of whatever measures are necessary to get all the parties at the table to fix this problem."

Hoyt said on any given day, 300 beds in the hospitals under Horizon Health Network are filled by those deemed ready for an alternate level of care. That accounts for 22 to 27 per cent of all of Horizon's acute care beds, he said.

"It's situation critical, for sure," said Hoyt.

Stop ignoring what statisticians and demographers have been predicting for years.- Dr. Ben Hoyt, chief of surgery ath Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital

"I think the obvious long-term solution, we need more nursing home beds. We need a lot more nursing home beds," said Hoyt.

"The message is clear. Stop ignoring what statisticians and demographers have been predicting for years," he said.

"Our population is getting older. It's going to cost a fair amount of money up front to get patients into the appropriate living situation, but it's going to save money in the long term."

Hoyt said it costs $1,000 a day to care for a patient in a hospital bed.