Despite several high-profile incidents involving Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s emergency department, there has been no dramatic spike in patient care complaints in recent years, data obtained by The News show. In fact, the ratio of complaints to the number of patients seen by the emergency room has actually decreased.
The department was the subject of 73 complaints between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, according to the figures, which The News obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
That is above the average over the six previous years, but not extraordinarily so. Between 2010 and 2016, the department averaged 62.5 patient care complaints each year. The 2010/11 year saw the most complaints, with 80 recorded; the 2012/13 year saw the fewest, with 51 complaints.
But since opening in 2008, the ER has also seen the number of patients who use it increase by 60 per cent. And the statistics suggest that a patient visiting the ER last year was less likely to file a complaint as one seen in 2010/11.
Fraser Health received 13.8 complaints per 10,000 ER patients in 2010/11. In 2015/16, 6.7 complaints were filed for every 10,000 patients seen. Patient numbers for 2016/17 weren’t provided, but if they were about 80,000 as suggested by politicians earlier this year, then last year’s complaint rate was about 9.1 for every 10,000 patients, in line with the average of 9.4 over the previous six years.
The ARH ER came under growing scrutiny in February after two people died in the days after being sent home. One of those – three-year-old Nimrat Gill – had a rare form of an infectious disease, a review has since found.
Of the 450 complaints over the last seven years, four – two in 2011/12, and one each in 2012/13 and 2013/14 – were escalated to the Patient Care Quality Review Board, which provides patients with the opportunity to resolve concerns they feel haven’t been adequately dealt with by the health authority’s patient care quality office.
Broader numbers about patient satisfaction, however, aren’t known as previously used surveys were deemed unreliable and are being revamped by the province.
Not all people who experience a problem, however, report it or complain about it. Instead, some have told The News that they don’t feel their complaint would be addressed or dealt with respectfully. Hospital officials, though, have said they encourage those with problems to come forward.