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Nurses criticize cut in pediatric beds at Abbotsford hospital

Unionized nurses are concerned about the redesignation of children
Unionized nurses are concerned about the redesignation of children's beds at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, pictured in the aerial photo above.
— image credit: John Morrow photo

Unionized nurses are warning the redesignation of some beds at Abbotsford Regional Hospital may result in children there being transferred to other hospitals across the region instead of being treated at home.

The Fraser Health Authority is converting eight beds used for pediatric daycare surgery at Abbotsford so they can be used for adult use to relieve congestion.

The BC Nurses' Union says the change means kids that end up in Abbotsford hospital will either be crammed in with other patients – possibly facing longer waits – or transferred, potentially to Langley, Surrey or Royal Columbian hospitals.

Linda PipeBCNU Fraser Valley regional chair Linda Pipe said it's not always appropriate to mix adult and children.

The hospital has the only pediatrics department in the Fraser East region, and BCNU reps say kids from places like Chilliwack or Hope may end up being treated in Surrey.

Fraser Health officials say the reallocation of underused pediatric beds to adult use is temporary and would be reversed if the need for them increases.

They said 12 dedicated pediatric beds remain available at Abbotsford as well as six overflow beds when required.

"We are not going to compromise the care and service to our child population in favour of adults – that's not at all the objective here," said spokesperson Tasleem Juma.

She said the aim is to turn the converted unit into a flexible space that can handle either adult or child needs.

"The switch back to pediatric can be done fairly easily."

The union disputes the health authority's claim that the change is temporary, pointing out renovations are underway at significant cost.

"When you spend $500,000 on renovations that doesn't sound too temporary to me," Pipe said. "Or if it is temporary it's a waste of money."

She said impacts are already being felt from the conversion, which is in progress.

"The last two weeks they had three pediatric patients waiting in the emergency department for 12 hours because the pediatric department was full and the adults did not get moved out."

The issue was raised at a Family Day event staged by the BCNU Monday at Abbotsford hospital.

– with files from CTV

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