The North Island Hospital Campbell River and District opened in September 2017 but there have been numerous complaints about overcrowding at the relatively new facility.

Frank Johnson is the latest. He went in for a suspected gallstone attack on Jan. 2 and was admitted for nine days. After tests were done in the Emergency Room he was put on a stretcher in the hallway.

“I was getting disappointed more than angry,” said Johnson. “I thought it was just going to be overnight or something like that, they’ll find me a bed tomorrow and then it turned into two days, four days.”

Then after four days in the hallway, his stretcher was moved into a room where another patient had a bed. But he was still on a stretcher and stayed on it for the next five days.

He says nurses and doctors provided excellent care, but he wonders why anyone has to spend several days on a stretcher in a hallway in a hospital that is not even two years old yet?

“My case is just not a blip, this is happening all the time,” he added.

He is not the only one to complain. In December CHEK News spoke with Mark Sernes who found himself recovering in a makeshift room, in a hallway.

“It was quite a shock to me to come back to my room and find my bed in the hallway,” Sernes said in December.

Island Health says it apologizes to Mr. Johnson for his experience but adds:

“Hospitals all across B.C. are incredibly busy and capacity issues are an ongoing challenge, particularly when seasonal illnesses such as influenza is a factor. We do not turn patients away and always provide the best care possible even though it may not be in the setting people expect.”

Island Health also says in accordance with the B.C. Government Surgical Strategy more surgeries are being performed at the Campbell River Hospital which is decreasing wait times but also increasing the number of hospital stays.

The old Campbell River Hospital had 79 beds and Island Health says the new one is funded 95 beds.

“They say they’ve got a long-term strategy for things like this but it’s not really helping now is it? They’ve got to do something right away,” said Johnson.

Here is the full statement from Island Health:

With respect to the patient at CRH, we sincerely apologize to this patient for his experience at Campbell River Hospital. And of course, due to privacy laws and in support of our confidentiality policies, we can’t discuss or disclose details about individual patients or the care they receive. We can say that when a patient arrives at the hospital we focus our efforts on the most complex clients with the highest care needs. Some individuals need to be in for monitoring and tests and we follow the appropriate process. Diagnoses are clinical decisions made by physicians – as are decisions to admit and discharge patients (in this case, the patient has been discharged).

To ease pressure on the hospital, home support hours in Campbell River have increased by roughly 15% over the past year and we will continue to expand services and increase community supports moving forward and as the population grows. The Campbell River hospital is funded for 95 beds and those beds are staffed. In over-capacity cases, we add additional staff and beds which means some patients are cared for doubled up in a room or a hallway.

Like other health authorities across the province, hospitals in the Island Health region are extremely busy and we’re experiencing a significant number of patients at most of our hospitals. The impact of increasing seasonal illness and influenza are contributing to the number of patients being admitted to hospitals. While this is common at this time of year, and not unique to one particular site or even Island Health, the surge in patient volumes is higher than in past years at some sites.

We have Over Capacity Protocols in place to ensure we have the right resources in place to ensure safe care in our hospitals and guidelines for care have been developed to ensure we provide the best care possible. Our main goal is to ensure safe and effective care is provided in the most appropriate setting possible.

· There are focussed strategies underway to address capacity challenges including work to reduce length of stay within hospital, and improve access to care in the community.

· Additional actions to date include increasing Home Support hours, implementation of Overnight Care Teams, new specialized services for those with Mental Health and Substance Use challenges and improved supports for those who are medically frail.

· As part of the BC Government’s $75M announcement, Island Health is also working to increase access to Adult Day Programs and respite services to better support the needs of patients and caregivers in the community.

· In accordance with the BC Government’s surgical strategy, we have increased the number of surgeries performed at North Island Hospital, Comox Valley and Campbell River. While this has resulted in more surgeries being performed and reduced wait times, it has increased the number hospital visits and stays.

Despite the pressures on the system, our dedicated physicians and staff continue to deliver high quality care to our patients and we gratefully acknowledge and thank physicians, nurses, clinical and support staff for their tremendous efforts during this extremely busy time at all Island Health sites.

While it’s a busy time at our hospitals, we want to reassure the public that we are open and ready to take care of anyone who shows up in need of care. We never turn patients away and our goal is always to deliver high quality care in an environment of continuous improvement. Despite the high patient volumes we are experiencing, all Island Health facilities continue to have capacity to respond to critical and emergency cases. We encourage everyone who is unsure of whether they need to come to hospital to connect with their primary care provider, go to a walk-in clinic or call HealthLink BC at 811 to speak to a medical professional. However, if anyone thinks they need immediate care, go to the emergency department.

Dean Stoltz