Congestion not improving at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Hospital among several Fraser Health facilities performing below targets

Abbotsford Regional Hospital has the second-highest total in the region for patients waiting for a bed.

Abbotsford Regional Hospital has the second-highest total in the region for patients waiting for a bed.

Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) continues to struggle to meet benchmark performance indicators, according to Fraser Health’s latest report card.

Last December, a region-wide Fraser Health report card declared that “emergency departments are becoming increasingly overcrowded due to increasing patient volumes, and recent results at the site level show that most hospitals are still performing below the set targets.”

The situation has only grown worse since then, and in April less than one-third of patients – 32.8 per cent – at ARH were admitted to hospital within 10 hours. That number is down from 37 per cent cited last December, a rate that still fell well short of the Fraser Health target of 55 per cent.

Across the region, that number has also declined, from 39.1 to 36.6 per cent.

And once they are admitted, more people are waiting to get a bed.

Across the region, 222 patients had to wait for a bed. That’s short of the target of 165 waiting patients and an increase over last year.

Many of those patients are waiting at ARH, which recorded the second-highest total in the region, with 43 patients waiting for a bed.

When asked about the emergency room congestion in January, ARH executive director Shallen Letwin told The News, “There is obviously an improvement we’re looking at to try and advance [patients’] journeys a lot sooner.”

Letwin said at the time that limits on the number of beds at each hospital mean staff had to work to reduce the length of patient stays in order to meet demand. He also noted that admission times differ from the time it takes to see a physician, which usually occurs an hour or two after a patient enters the emergency room.

In response to the latest report card, Fraser Health released a statement citing new funding and urging patience.

“We are working to reduce hospital congestion by investing in primary and community care, but it is going to take time for this work to show up in the report card indicators,” the statement read. The authority cited a recent $5-million plan to increase health care supports in the community, prevent avoidable admissions and help patients return home more quickly.

While it struggles to meet its capacity for care targets, ARH did post solid scores for quality and safety – with one exception.

In April, the hospital recorded a “facility-associated” incidence of C.diff infection of 9.5 cases per 10,000 patient days, well in excess of the target of 6 and the second-highest in the region, behind Chilliwack General Hospital. Prior to April, the rate of C.diff at ARH had been better than the target, although it had been slowly inching up in recent months.

In its statement to The News, Fraser Health said the increase “may have been caused by multiple factors such as high patient volumes.”

The health authority said it has implemented “enhanced cleanings throughout the hospital and increased education to patients, staff and visitors.” They also noted that it’s important to look at the rate over time, as numbers can vary from month to month.