Peace Arch Hospital is moving forward with plans to keep pace with the needs of a rapidly growing community. In the third of a series of articles, Peace Arch News asks emergency physician Dr. Jerrod Hendry for his perspective on the need for the planned new $20-million ER – and what impact the current overcrowded space has on patient care.
Being a doctor was all young Jerrod Hendry wanted to do.
“My dad worked in the maintenance department of Shaughnessy Hospital,” Hendry recalled. “But I remember thinking – as a little kid – ‘my dad’s a doctor.’ “
“I’m the absolute black sheep in the family, the only one who went to university. I’m the weirdo – I don’t have a trade. My family still kids me that it’s time I went out and got one.
“I always had that leaning toward things like biology while my brothers were all into mechanical things. Even today they’re the ones you would go to if you wanted something built. Any cabinet I’d build would probably come out really slanted.”
For Hendry – who came to Peace Arch Hospital as an emergency physician 11 years ago and was head of the emergency department from the beginning of 2009 until April of this year – there’s satisfaction in doing the work he knows he was meant to do.
Like all staff at the hospital, he’s pragmatic and professional when it comes to providing treatment, and committed to the concept of quality care.
“I don’t care who you speak to – we all want the same thing,” he told Peace Arch News. “The medical part is not the tough part – I like the medical part.”
But he’s also frank in saying that, for him, a new ER at Peace Arch can’t come too soon.
Under the present overcrowded circumstances, he said, patients are being denied the privacy and “simple dignity” that should be a key element of a quality patient experience.
“As a physician, that’s the part that kills me,” he said.
“We’re caught in a numbers game. When I started (in emergency), there were 20,000 to 24,000 visits per year – this year it’s close to 52,000. You’re looking at a hospital that was originally meant to deal with a smaller community, and it’s really changed in terms of demographics.”
All hospital departments are dealing with the growth the ER has experienced, Hendry said. Radiology, for example, is kept busy processing the multiple imaging studies needed for most patients seen in emergency. And 99 per cent of all the admissions to the hospital currently come through the ER, he added.
“We’re putting beds in areas that were never designed to have beds in there, and you can only get in one way. You have to torque the patients in there. You have to jury-rig everything to make it work, and it’s getting to the point that even that is not enough.”
It’s become the norm for doctors like Hendry to see patients in hallways and corridors, and that something that weighs on him, he admitted.
“One or two might get a private room, but there might be another 40 people out in a hallway,” he said. “It’s happened more than once that I’ve had to tell someone a bad diagnosis, or someone is breathing their last breath, where everyone can hear and see them.
“There’s no privacy, no dignity. It’s not what you want to have as a patient. It’s not what you expect to have.”
Hendry emphasized that the hospital’s dedicated staff continue to make sure the care itself is not being compromised.
“We’re trying to do the best we can with what we have, but people need to have a safe single room where they can talk to their health-care providers in a quiet environment – not in a hallway or behind a curtain, with people walking all around you, where you’re doing it all in the public eye.”
Born in Vancouver, Hendry took his bachelor’s, master’s and medical doctor degrees at UBC and gained experience in research, including a brief sojourn in Japan, before becoming chief resident in both Family Medicine and the CCFP Fellowship Program at McGill University.
He’s been a ship’s physician and a flight physician, spent six years as an emergency physician at Vancouver Hospital’s UBC site and has been a clinical assistant professor at UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine since 2005.
He and his wife, Danielle, met at Peace Arch in 2007 (“she was the scariest charge nurse I knew,” he admitted, with a wry grin).
After they married, they decided that living in the community in which they were both working made much more sense than commuting from Vancouver, where Hendry grew up, or Richmond, where they had been living,
It was a decision they’ve never regretted, particularly after the birth of their three children, Nicholas, 7, Marcus, 3, and Charlise, 1.
“It gave us a chance to get something with a little more space for the kids, where there was the quality of schools, and where we had connections with community,” he said.
Hendry said he and Danielle – currently on maternity leave from the hospital – both feel they have a stake in making sure the facility continues to serve the population well.
As former head of the emergency department, Hendry said he has been glad to have input in planning the new ER.
“I’ve been involved from the get-go,” he said, adding that staff have studied expansions at VGH and in Surrey, Abbotsford and Chilliwack, “so that hopefully we’re not reproducing mistakes that have been made before.”
He said he remains “amazed” that Peace Arch has been able to secure funding approval from Fraser Health to proceed with the expansion of the ER so soon.
“We were not slotted to have an emergency updating,” he said, adding that he is sure that the valuable fundraising work of Peace Arch Hospital Foundation, closing in on a $15-million commitment to the project – and the support of the community as a whole – played a crucial role in moving the schedule up.
“If it had just been between (the hospital) and Fraser Health, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Next week: longtime Peace Arch Hospital supporters Ellen Kennett and Rita Whyte – one of the first ER nurses at the hospital in the 1950s – look back at the strong community roots of the facility.