EDITORIAL: Peace Arch Hospital’s own 911 call

It couldn't have been news for those who attended Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation's 2014 Partners In Caring Gala that some patients spend hours waiting for ER services in hospital hallways.

It's been a message that's been repeated by doctors and nurses, often in the pages of the Peace Arch News, over the years – but a video prepared for the gala added a hefty emotional jolt.

While some may be more comfortable with reports and balance sheets that paint a "nothing-to-see-here" picture, there's no substitute for seeing the faces and hearing the voices of patients and their relatives who have experienced  pain and anguish in hospital corridors.

Some patients have a very lucky time at PAH. The timing of their problem coincides with a low level of demand and they receive the care they need without delay, and are up, out and functioning again with surprising rapidity.

Sadly, that's not always the case.

While those interviewed for the video echo a common refrain – that services,  compassion and empathy they received at Peace Arch are excellent – there can be no denying one patient's qualifying statement: that she received the best possible care under the current circumstances.

The fact is that Peace Arch Hospital's aging ER was built to accommodate 22,000 patients annually, and currently treats 50,000.

As PAH emergency department program manager Judi Rae Kortje puts it, "the environment we have now is not conducive to providing excellent care."

Emergency services head Dr. Jerrod Hendry is even more blunt in the video (which can be viewed on the foundation's website, www.pahfoundation.ca/projects/emergency-room).

Not only does the lack of room mean many patients have to wait sitting up in chairs, or on beds where a curtain "is the only thing between you and everybody else who walks by" – others are spending their last moments in hospital corridors, he said.

"It's degrading for the family and not respectful for the patient, but that's what we have right now," Hendry said.

The good news is the hospital has a plan, and funding approval from Fraser Health, for a redeveloped ER three times the size of the current facility, on track to begin this year. But even with government funding, gifts and donations play a crucial role in creating a facility that meets needs.

It's to be hoped that the foundation's current appeal to the community is – if not a wake-up call for local residents – a significant call to action.


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