Health care is getting worse here in the Okanagan. The Kelowna General Hospital is possibly the last place you want to be if you are in need of emergency care.
Code purple, a term used when admin staff are directed to empty hospital beds of any non urgent patients to make room for more critical cases. Who makes up the patients "evicted" during code purple? They are those that have just had surgery, people in hospital for observation, those awaiting surgery.
This past few days are among the worst in what KGH Acting Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Mike Ertel has seen in the last 8 months. CBC reported today that the hospital today had 400 patients with only 330 beds. I have it from a source inside KGH tonight that the hospital has 412 patients and that is a record number.
82 patients over capacity. During the provincial election it came to light the hallways in KGH were numbered so emergency staff could find patients once they were deposited in the hallways. Surprising to me was the total disinterest local media took in this situation.
A rally held to draw attention to the situation May 1, 2005 with over 400 people in attendance outside KGH failed to attract a single media report.
One editorial during the election in the town's paper actually addressed the issue. That was pretty much it despite this riding having been home to the Cabinet Minister responsible for ensuring BC's Health Care system was prepared for this.
Nicki Hokazono NDP candidate made several attempts to make the conditions at KGH public including this discussion and meeting with Health Care economist Richard Neal (Photo: Hokazono discusses KGH with Neal). Neal pointed to the added costs of keeping seniors in expensive acute care beds vs proper long term care beds and attributed the loss of those beds to the crisis at KGH.
Sindi Hawkins was the Minister of Health Planning and it seems she not only failed to deliver a provincial planning system, she couldn't even deliver to her home riding.
What has caused this problem in Kelowna? Much of it can be attributed to hospital closures and bed cuts throughout the Interior. KGH became a Regional Hospital without the corresponding increase in beds and staffing. That coupled with a loss of some 800 long term care beds in the region has increased the pressures on KGH.
It has become so bad that some people waiting for loved ones to get into a long term care bed have actually called emergency when their loved one is ill and they are left at emergency. The hospital then has to cope with a frail senior without a bed to put them into. At anyone time KGH has 30 to 50 seniors waiting for long term care.
There can be no better example of the Campbell government's complete failure to deliver on improving health care. Much of the problem can be traced in large part to the closure of long term care beds with no relief in sight.
On Monday and Tuesday this week people requiring emergency care arrived by ambulance only to find themselves left in the ambulance to wait for room to be made available in the emergency hallways. Yes the hallways and not the emergency room.
KGH has faced situations in the last year where people requiring care within 15 minutes, usually heart involved cases have not been seen for as long as 30 or more minutes. As most of us know in the case of heart or stroke related emergencies the need for emergency treatment is vital. The sooner they are seen the less severe the consequences of a heart attack or stroke will be.
Our hospital, our community, our seniors are being let down by the Gordon Campbell government big time and it appears someone will die as the the Liberals practice their version of inventory control. That is what happens when your priority is cost cutting and you ignore the fact you are dealing with people, many of them seniors.
The problem here in Kelowna has been getting worse, I expect the Interior Health Authority (IHA) has made the situation known to the Premier and the Minister of Health. I say I expect they have as that would be the minimum level of action one would take. That being the case, the Liberal government's failure to act is even worse and perhaps the IHA CEO learned from the Fraser Valley experience when its CEO was fired for confirming publicly there was a serious problem at Surrey Memorial Hospital. Speak up and you will lose you job.
I am happy a Doctor has finally decided to speak up. Just where the heck have they been for the last year. They have known and seen the problem worsen day by day. I guess it is better late thasn never. It is only through pure luck that no one has died to date. Who will be the person that is sacrificed on the alter of cost savings in order that the rest of us will benefit from the resulting media storm forcing the government to act.