Debra McPherson

Debra McPherson

Nurses gather in Abbotsford to protest hospital overcrowding

About 30 members of the BC Nurses' Union (BCNU) held a brief protest outside Abbotsford Regional Hospital (AHR) yesterday afternoon to draw attention to the issues of overcrowding and patient care.

About 30 members of the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) held a brief protest outside Abbotsford Regional Hospital (AHR) this afternoon (Friday) to draw attention to the issues of overcrowding and patient care.

They carried signs that said “End Hallway Nursing” and chanted “Safe care now!” and “Safe nurses mean safe patients!”

BCNU president Debra McPherson said AHR was chosen as the protest site for the group of nurses because it is considered the “flagship” hospital in the Fraser Health Authority.

She said despite being the newest facility with some of the most modern technology, AHR is experiencing the same issues as older hospitals in the region.

“This, like many of the Fraser Health Authority facilities, is running over-capacity almost constantly.”

McPherson said the emergency room routinely has 20 to 24 patients lined up waiting for beds, while the critical care unit is funded for 22 beds but is usually running 24.

The pediatric unit is funded and staffed for 12 beds, but normally operates 16, she said.

This is resulting in patients being placed in hallways and nurses handling a bigger caseload than is appropriate for proper care, McPherson added. In one situation, a palliative care patient was admitted to a tub room, she said.

Nicole Hande, a nurse who works in the high-acuity unit at AHR, told the Abbotsford News that overcrowding is a regular occurrence.

“Most days that I come in, I do see patients in the hallway,” she said.

She said nurses in her eight-bed unit are supposed to care for two patients each during a shift, but regularly have more than that on their caseload. Patient care suffers as a result, she said.

“I find a lot of personal care can get delayed,” Hande said.

Linda Pipe, Fraser Valley chair of the BCNU, told the crowd that nurses are faced with “extremely stressful working conditions.”

“Nurses are being asked to choose who goes home. Often, they’re making the decision about the best of the worst,” she said.

McPherson called on Fraser Health to better address the issues and for Health Services Minister Colin Hansen to stop being “delusional” about the state of health care in the province.

“The time has come to end hallway care. Patients deserve better and the nurses deserve better conditions in which to work,” she said.

Joan Marshall of Fraser Health, responding to the concerns expressed at the protest, said the last few weeks have been “extraordinarily busy” across the region.

“Unfortunately, in order to maintain patient flow during some of these busy times, some patients have had to be moved to hallways to accommodate others who may have more acute needs.”

Marshall said hospitals have ebbs and flows in the amount of patients, and the numbers can change in a short time.

She said nurses are to be commended for their passion and hard work.

“There is an open feedback forum in which we encourage staff to share their ideas about improving health care and alerting us to any concerns they may have.”