Victoria General Hospital apologizes for the “definitely excessive” five-day hallway stay of a retired Navy veteran.
The 77-year-old was admitted with “significant medical issues” on Jan. 17, according to his son Darren Laur, retired staff sergeant with the Victoria City Police Department, who says his father has had no privacy since.
“My dad is a symptom of a broken medical system,” Laur tweeted on Wednesday, trying to raise awareness of his father’s plight.
Clinical director for Victoria General Hospital, Mark Blandford, confirmed Wednesday that the veteran is now in a room.
“We apologize, as his case was definitely excessive and we didn’t catch it,” said Blandford, going on to explain that during times of high patient volumes the hospital often has patients in the hallway.
The 35-year-old hospital is generally at capacity year-round, said Blandford, but often goes overcapacity when flu season strikes. When there are more patients than space, some are treated in the hallways.
“We try to limit it to a maximum two or three days. We missed this one. It was too long,” said Blandford. “We’re looking at procedures around this so we can learn from it.”
Island Health apologized to the family as well, saying care provided in overcapacity environments is generally a temporary situation while patients are in transition to units or awaiting an inpatient room.
“We know when it’s extremely busy some patients are being cared for in temporary and less than ideal places including hallways. We apologize for this,” said Island Health spokeswoman Meribeth Burton. “We never turn patients away and our goal is always to deliver high quality care in an environment of continuous improvement.”
In his Twitter threads about his father’s situation, Laur blames the problem on a lack of funding.
“My dad is like a canary in a coal mine that is sending a clear message that something bad is happening. What is really sad, my dad and his generation are the canaries right now, and they deserve better that this,” wrote Laur.
4/…. to use an analogy, my dad is like a canary in a coal mine that is sending a clear message that something bad is happening. What is really sad, my dad and his generation are the canaries right now, and they deserve better that this.
— Darren Laur, The White Hatter 🇨🇦 (@DarrenLaur) January 23, 2019
Blandford said the hospital is adequately funded for its 330 beds, and that it is the space limitations that cause the overcapacity issues.
VGH works closely with Royal Jubilee Hospital, transferring patients when necessary.
“We consider ourselves one hospital with two sites,” Blandford said.
Due to that flexibility, all Island Health facilities continue to have capacity to respond to critical and emergency cases despite the high patient volumes, Burton assured.
While Laur was appreciative of the apologies, saying the empathy Burton showed publicly meant a lot to his family, he didn’t believe his father’s situation is a rarity.
“What about the other ones in the hallway? Another senior was in the hall for 10 days,” said Laur.
He is calling on the federal and provincial government to better fund health care.
“This is not just about my dad. This is a national issue,” Laur said, who has been receiving messages of support from across the country from others experiencing ‘hallway medicine.’
“There is a huge influx of us coming up in the system. What are we going to do when my generation comes up if the hospitals are already overcapacity?”
I feel for you and your father. As a GP practicing “Hallway Medecine” in Canada, this BREAKS MY HEART. Praying and hoping for a bed for our pts has become normal. All the best, care and recovery, to your Dad!
— M LeBlanc MD (@Mimiblanc73) January 23, 2019
Currently, Island Health has more nursing vacancies listed online than any other health authority in B.C.
In an in interview with Black Press last week on the topic of the B.C. nursing shortage, BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) president Christine Sorensen said, “Nurses are 100 per cent committed to providing safe patient care but it is difficult to do so in a system that is underfunded, understaffed and frequently over capacity.”
The shortage creates long wait times for patients and what Sorensen calls ‘hallway nursing.’
“I don’t blame VIHA for my dad’s situation,” said Laur. “This is a multifactoral issue. I blame the broken system that ultimately comes down to the issue of money.”
– with files from Nina Grossman