COLUMN: Surrey Memorial Hospital ER gets much-needed boost

Surrey Memorial’s upgraded emergency ward will open Oct. 1

For perhaps the first time in its 54-year history, Surrey Memorial Hospital will have an emergency department that can actually handle the demands placed on it.

The new emergency department will open on Oct. 1, and on Saturday, residents of Surrey and North Delta had a chance to take a look at it. Most were very impressed with what they saw.

One of the best touches is a separate emergency department entrance and treatment area for children.

Given the large number of children in Surrey, the hospital sees many coming to emergency. And up to the present, they have been forced to wait with dozens – and sometimes hundreds – of others waiting for treatment.

Some of those adults are very disruptive and that is hardly a welcoming or healing atmosphere for a sick child.

Indeed, adults with mental-health and substance-abuse issues will be seen in an area separated from the remainder of the emergency department. This is a good step and should be helpful for everybody.

Another smart innovation will see a satellite imaging diagnostic department within the ER – meaning that diagnosis will be done on the spot.

Results will be available much more quickly, which will ease waiting times and improve the flow of patients.

SMH has for many years had the busiest ER in B.C. and some of the longest waits. Past expansion projects have always been obsolete even before they opened, due to the rapid increase in population that continues unabated. The province has often been slow to plan for and fund health expansion in Surrey.

While it is hard to say just what will happen when this ER opens, it is likely that wait times will go down.

At 57,000 square feet, the new ER is five times larger than the current facility.

With the emphasis on separating children and people with mental health and substance abuse issues, it will almost certainly be a much less chaotic place.

However, it will not be under-utilized. The wait times have been horrendous in recent years and, as noted in a Black Press article on the new facility, “some families drive out of their way to avoid the SMH emergency department.”

This hasn’t so much been due to a lack of trust in the staff, but more a realization that there would be long wait times and was often done out of a concern for the patient.

The SMH ER will get busier by the day. The current ER handles twice the number of patients it was built for – which explains the long wait times.

It is expected that there will be 109,000 ER visits to SMH next year, and visits are expected to jump by more than 50 per cent by 2030.

The overall construction project at SMH will help the hospital to better meet the needs of the growing population of Surrey and North Delta. It will also fit in with the city’s goal to encourage more health-related economic activity in the area surrounding the hospital.

It will help make Surrey more of a complete city, with actual services that a city of its size should have.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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