The issue of unassigned patients waiting to see a doctor at Peace Arch Hospital is now receiving serious attention

The issue of unassigned patients waiting to see a doctor at Peace Arch Hospital is now receiving serious attention

Hospital staff ‘pouring in’ after report

Fraser Health figures confirms that two thirds of patients coming to Peace Arch Hospital are from White Rock and South Surrey

A concerned health-care professional who previously sounded a warning about unassigned patients waiting days to see a physician at Peace Arch Hospital reports the issue is now “being attended to seriously for the first time.”

The source, who has spoken on condition of anonymity, said last week’s Peace Arch News articles, as well as pleas from medical staff, appear to have “stirred Fraser Health into action.”

House-doctor shifts for ‘orphan’ patients – those not registered to family doctors with admitting privileges – are now around 90 per cent covered at PAH, the source estimates.

The professional had told PAN a shortage of doctors to staff the hospital’s house-doctor program had led, by the beginning of September, to a situation in which patients with serious conditions –  including heart attacks, strokes, bleeding disorders and pneumonia – were waiting as much as four days before being seen by a doctor.

The situation had not only threatened the health of patients, the source had charged, but had also angered families and placed a huge strain on nursing staff.

Dr. Dave Williams, medical program director for Fraser Health, has acknowledged there have been “delays in having continuity of physician care” for orphan patients, while noting the nighttime doctor program administered by the Division of Family Practice – in which area family doctors attend overnight urgent calls – had been taking care of acute needs.

Fraser Health had been attempting to establish a daytime house-doctor program with help from overtaxed local doctors since January of this year, and took over sole responsibility for staffing house doctor shifts Sept. 1.

“They’re pouring staff in and making an effort to cover all shifts,” the source told Peace Arch News Monday. “They’re not fully covered, but most of the shifts are covered for October, which is a better situation than previously existed.”

The source said hospital management has also taken steps to have an ongoing audit of the number of unassigned patients waiting to see a doctor.

“If Fraser Health comes through on this, the problem will end, but the verdict remains to be seen,” the source said, noting Fraser Health also appears to be acting to resolve alleged pay inequities between Peace Arch and Surrey Memorial Hospital that had contributed to a shortage of doctors available for local shifts.

Fraser Health spokesperson Roy Thorpe-Dorward – who had previously criticized the reporting of an unnamed source – had also taken issue with the quoted comment that “many” patients come from outside PAH’s catchment area.

Thorpe-Dorwood provided statistics that indicate that until Aug. 31 this year, 63 per cent of PAH patients reside in White Rock/South Surrey. Of the remainder, 24 per cent are from elsewhere in Surrey, four per cent each in Delta and Langley, three per cent from the rest of B.C. and three per cent unrecorded.

This was within a percentage point of previous-year statistics.

However, in providing the figures, Thorpe-Dorwood noted “hospitals don’t really have ‘catchment’ areas, as such.

“B.C. residents are free to attend emergency departments wherever they choose… PAH is a community hospital, so, in general, receives fewer out-of-area referrals than a regional hospital like SMH (Surrey Memorial Hospital)…”

He said that even for patients from neighbouring areas, Peace Arch might be “at least as close” as Delta, Surrey and Langley hospitals.

“I think that the numbers provided above show that PAH is fulfilling its role as a ‘community’ hospital quite nicely. Approximately two-thirds of inpatients are from the White Rock/South Surrey area and the rest are from neighbouring communities of Surrey, Delta and Langley.”