A Peace Arch News article that noted acutely-ill unassigned patients at Peace Arch Hospital have been kept waiting for days has drawn criticism from Fraser Health.
However, the source of the original story – a health-care professional who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity – maintains the Sept. 18 article has met with approval from physicians and nursing staff.
Because of a shortage of ‘hospitalists’ able to staff a house-doctor program, unassigned patients – those who aren’t registered with family practitioners with admitting privileges – have been waiting up to four days for doctors to administer treatment, the source avers.
Fraser Health spokesperson Roy Thorpe-Dorward called PAN Tuesday to question the use of an unnamed source for the news story.
“Normally an unnamed source would only be used if there was fear for the person’s safety or serious retribution, personal/professional consequences, those kind of things,” he told editor Lance Peverley. “The person not named makes some pretty serious allegations about patient safety and care. So to make those kinds of serious allegations without being named, I think it’s pretty poor practice.”
Thorpe-Dorward suggested a line in the original story – that “many of the unassigned patients are coming to Peace Arch outside of the catchment area… for many English is a second language” – is “a very borderline racist statement.”
Asked how the statement is racist, Thorpe-Dorward said, “The implication is there are a lot of immigrant population people coming from either nearby Surrey or Richmond or other communities that are coming to Peace Arch that don’t speak English… I think that’s a racist statement.”
The source was stunned when told the statement was considered racist.
“It’s not racist when you want to communicate with patients,” the professional said.
Thorpe-Dorward also said it was a factual error for the source to state there were not translation services available at Peace Arch Hospital. He offered a link to the www.phsa.ca website for the Provincial Language Service, which provides interpretation and translation services for Fraser Health, with a number and a secure booking system through which interpreters can be booked.
The source countered that such a service isn’t an immediate option when trying to converse with acutely-ill patients, adding that nurses and cleaning staff have sometimes been pressed into service as interpreters.
“There are no readily available translation staff – you’d have to book them.”
Thorpe-Dorward also objected to not being asked to quantify the number of patients coming to Peace Arch from outside the catchment area, saying this constituted a factual error – although he said he could not provide the actual numbers without checking further, which he agreed to do.
The source said it’s significant these are the main objections to the story. The professional noted there has been no denial of the basic situation, in which unassigned patients have been denied medical care and nursing staff have felt “abandoned’ while bearing the brunt of frustration and anger.
“These are facts – they can’t deny this,” the source said. “(The facts) will be supported and backed up by physicians and nursing staff.”
A meeting of medical staff at the hospital reviewing the issue Monday night reportedly concluded that “public dialogue” was needed about the situation.
The source said both physicians and nurses had “very positive feedback” on the story and are “hopeful that public awareness will result in meaningful change.”