The rise in the number of sick children has led British Columbia’s Surrey Memorial Hospital to see four times as many patients as the emergency department it was designed for and 100 more children a day than a year last, making it one of the busiest pediatric units in the country.
Much of the attention during the fall peak of respiratory viruses in children has been directed at BC Children’s Hospital, where they activated an emergency department overflow on Tuesday, but Surrey faces a much bigger situation severe.
“The pediatric ER has been overwhelmed for some time now and we have expanded to the adult side, where we are currently using two treatment beds,” said Dr. Randeep Gill, emergency physician at SMH.
“We are seeing around 250 children a day during the wave, but it was built for 72 patient visits a day.”
Gill says that with just 12 treatment rooms in the emergency department, they treat patients “everywhere we can”, with children waiting in the hallways and some clinical assessments taking place in the waiting room. There are only 16 admission beds for overnight treatment.
BC Children’s Hospital has 35 treatment rooms in its emergency department and sees only 165 children a day.
CTV News spoke with a number of hospital pediatricians over the past few weeks who all described seeing more severe illnesses in children this year than usual for the fall respiratory season. Gill agrees and reveals that they need to resuscitate some of these children.
“(Resuscitation) happens very frequently here,” he said of the hospital’s pediatric emergency department.
“The number one cause of heart death is respiratory failure. When the lungs are infected with a virus, children decompensate from respiratory failure the fastest, so we see a significant number of these cases as well.
FRUSTRATED AND FEARED PARENTS
Critically ill children require overnight care and sometimes even extended care in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), which has resulted in the cancellation of scheduled surgeries for other children, including those whose life is in danger.
Some children who need non-emergency medical treatment are pushed out of the hospital because the system seems to be failing in all but the most serious cases.
“She’s in pain,” a mom CTV News uniquely identifies as Janice said of her daughter, who had been waiting to see a doctor in the BCCH emergency department for more than five hours. Photos of the child show a massive abscess protruding from his skull and braided hair.
“We went to the Surrey Memorial yesterday, having been there the day before and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her,” said Janice, whose child had a fever. “The day before we had been there and they sent us home at 3 a.m. because there was no bed there, no bed in Abbotsford, no bed at (BC) Children’s hospital.”
Both mother and child were exhausted, and Janice was moved when she said, “It’s frustrating because I just need help for her. I’m tired of going to the hospital over and over again.
BC CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL DOWNLOADS SITUATION
Despite an internal memo calling the influx of young patients a “storm” of the disease, the BCCH’s executive director of clinical operations played down the situation, calling their patient load “rather normal seasonally.”
When CTV News pointed out that 12-hour waits had become normal, which had not been the case before, Christy Hay suggested that a new electronic records system with public reporting made those waits more visible, but acknowledged that the system was also slowing down the process for healthcare workers. .
Hay initially said there were 55 care spaces in the BCCH Emergency Department, but when pressed admitted that “we currently operate about 35 of these clinical care spaces with current staff “.
Of the emergency department’s overflow, she called it a ‘satellite clinic that we staff with our pediatricians and nursing staff’ for less urgent cases, and when asked why they were seeing so few patients compared to SMH with more resources, she asserted the needs of patients are not the same.
“We see a lot of patients with higher acuity,” Hay said. “We are certainly accepting patients from other hospitals as we are the only Pediatric Level 1 Trauma Center in the province and we are the only quaternary hospital in British Columbia.
But it is a problem that has been the cause of much consternation south of Frase. The Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation has tracked the funding and reports that, on a per capita basis, Vancouver Coastal Health residents receive $3,033 per person compared to just $2,229 at Fraser Health.
“(The Pediatric Unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital) had 24 funded overnight beds and that number is now down to 16. So a lot of seriously ill children, we have to send them to BC Children’s Hospital,” said Gil. “It is extremely frustrating to see that we are the fastest growing city, but we are not able to take care of our children in our city.
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