At a press conference held on Halloween, the BC Nurses' Union promised emergency room horror stories.
They delivered. At Eagle Ridge Hospital, a dying man was read his last rites in the hallway, with a dozen strangers watching.
At Royal Columbian Hospital, a patient with a highly contagious MRSA superbug wandered around the ER hallway and into the Tim Hortons coffee shop.
The union had other horror stories about Fraser Health emergency rooms - all caused, they say, by nurse-patient ratios skyrocketing as vacant positions remain unfilled.
In Surrey last week, the union says one nurse was taking care of 11 patients - and that the ratio should be one nurse for every four stable patients.
"This is not safe or appropriate patient care," says BCNU president Debra McPherson. "And it's not due to a sudden spike in emergency visits. These hospitals have been dealing with chaos for weeks and months - and in Surrey, since the day the new ER opened."
As Canadians, we look to our neighbour to the south for health-care scares that involve uninsured or underinsured patients, massive bills and lack of access.
Compared to that situation, we tell ourselves, we're lucky. And we are.
But that shouldn't make us complacent about the overcrowding in our own health-care system, which doctors and nurses have been raising the alarm about for years.
"Band-Aid fixes are not the way to solve chronic overcapacity problems," McPherson says. "Fraser Health officials need to get out of their boardrooms and see the chaos in the ERs. There aren't enough funded beds, staffing levels are grossly inadequate and it's having a significant impact on safe patient care."
Let's hope this latest round of horror stories motivates health officials - and the politicians who fund the system - to create a happier ending.
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