Not a week goes by in the Eagle Ridge Hospital emergency room that Dr. Adam Lund doesn't see a patient he personally knows in the community. The Port Moody doctor said it could be the guy he buys coffee from or a fellow parent.
And it's that personal connection with patients in the community that has Lund, and other doctors from around the province, speaking out against what they view as inexcusably long wait times in hospital emergency rooms.
"It hits me extra hard when I pick up a chart and I see that the person I know has been waiting five hours and no one has seen them yet," he told The NOW.
The BCEmergencyCare initiative, which was launched by the BC Medical Association's Section of Emergency Medicine, is both a campaign and new website hoping to generate support for a plan to fix the current ER problems.
The organization has proposed a five-point plan that calls for increasing physician staffing in ERs to reflect increased patient visits, making annual adjustments to ER physician staffing, setting and enforcing standards regarding how long sick ER patients wait for an inpatient bed, continuing and expanding initiatives that will reduce the number of ER visits and holding administrators in both the Ministry of Health and health authorities accountable for meeting the standards.
The association estimates it would cost $10 million to hire enough doctors to meet the current need in B.C.
Lund said the issues at ERH involve space and capacity.
He noted the ER has seen an increase in patient volumes year-over-year, yet funded physician hours remain at the same level as several years ago.
Lund suggested at ERH, at least a short-term solution for the ER crunch would be to add more doctors to the system.
The Port Moody doctor believes the province's emergency rooms are a gauge of the entire health system, adding when other services fail, people come to emergency.
"I don't think the system is working the way it needs to," he said.
The campaign's website includes an e-mail petition, video from ER doctors about their first-hand experiences after a shift, an ER report card and an invitation for the public to share their own experiences with emergency room care.
Local ER doctors wrote the report cards based on their first-hand experience.
In the case of ERH, the hospital got a failing grade.
According to the website, there aren't enough doctors at the facility and the ER needs one extra physician for eight hours each day.
The report card also noted the hospital is "choked" by over 100 per cent capacity, suggesting when a new sick patient shows up in the ER there is never an in-patient bed ready, leading to a wait.
Though the report noted the Fraser Health Authority administrators acknowledge the issue and have implemented several plans and procedures in ERH, it suggested nothing has worked.
But officials with the health authority believe strides to improve the situation at ERH are starting to show results.
Last year, some 45,000 people rolled through the emergency doors at the hospital, more than 5,000 from the previous year.
Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said the authority is aware and appreciates the doctors' concerns.
He noted the authority added 40 new acute care beds at the hospital and increased short-term home support by 36 per cent and long-term support by 14 per cent in the last 18 months.
Thorpe-Dorward also noted the hospital is working to be more efficient by revising the review process for long-stay patients, which includes taking a closer look at patients who are in the facility for more than 30 days.
As a result of the various strategies, the authority said it has improved on the percentage of patients who need to be admitted getting into an in-patient bed within 10 hours, which is the industry benchmark, to 60 per cent from 30 per cent.
The most recent measurement moved the number to 77 per cent.
The average number of patients per day who are actually admitted into the emergency department while waiting for an in-patient bed in 2012 also dropped to four from nine in the previous year.
"Working on the frontlines, we're absolutely interested in hearing what they [ER doctors] have to say, we are focusing on the same goals and I think we've seen some pretty decent progress in the last year," Thorpe-Dorward said.
When asked if the report was fair, he said he wasn't sure what criteria were used and couldn't speak directly to the report.
"I think there is great care delivered every day at emergency departments like Eagle Ridge, and we've made pretty good progress over the last year trying to reduce the stress on emergency departments in particular and across the system," Thorpe-Dorward said.
For more information on the BCEmergencyCare campaign, go to bcemergencycare. com.
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