ARH still trying to ease emergency room congestion

Fraser Health Authority hopes more staff will move patients more quickly through the ER.

Abbotsford Regional Hospital continues to be challenged by emergency room congestion.

The Fraser Health Authority hopes more personnel, including on weekends, will finally help solve persistent congestion issues in Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s (ARH) emergency room.

For years, hospitals across the region have failed to meet targets for expeditiously moving patients out of emergency rooms and into beds. ARH has been among the worst performers.

While the authority aims to admit ER patients to hospital within 10 hours, just 30.3 per cent of ARH patients in January and February were moved to in-patient beds within that time frame. That number is not only below the regional average of 32.2 per cent, but it’s the lowest such number at ARH since Fraser Health began publicly releasing Health Care Report Cards nearly two years ago.

The health region has blamed spikes in patient counts and pledged to increase supports in the community to reduce the number of people who turn to the ER to address non-emergency medical issues. But despite regional improvements last summer, Abbotsford has struggled to admit just a third of its patients within 10 hours.

Another spike in patients through the first three months of 2016 is partly to blame for the downward trend, according to Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma.

The hospital has launched several new initiatives to try to address the issue, and more staff, including doctors, are working longer hours on weekends, Juma said.

Since April, a doctor has been overseeing patient discharges in the morning, instead of just the afternoon, and a “capacity initiative nurse” focused on speeding up the treatment and discharging of those patients who won’t need admitting has been in place since January. In March, the hospital has been staffed with home health liaisons responsible for helping provide care so that patients can be moved out of hospital and into the community.

“We hope to see some positive impacts,” Juma said. “We are always striving to provide the best patient care, and we are optimistic these concerted efforts will move us in the right direction.”