LETTER – Overcrowding at North Island Hospital campuses must be addressed

In January, Brampton declared a healthcare emergency calling on the Ontario government to address its hospital’s number of “hallway patients.”

In November, Abbotsford’s mayor called for hospital expansion responding to a warning from local surgeons. Across B.C., municipal officials are waking up to their hospitals’ serious overcrowding problems and the need to mount campaigns to compete for a fair share of the province’s healthcare budget.

We are asking our hospital board and municipal officials to acknowledge our serious problem and hold Island Health accountable for our fair share in return for our 40 per cent municipal investment in our hospital. A few volunteer advocates can’t do this alone. It requires the mandate, resources and influence of local government. The time to fix the problem is now.

Our North Island Hospital (Comox Valley and Campbell River) consistently operates over 100 per cent capacity since its opening (planning target is 95 per cent). At 117 per cent, it was Island Health’s most over-capacity hospital in the 2018-19 fiscal year. Of B.C. hospitals over 100 beds, our hospital ranked fifth. Dawson Creek was highest at 128 per cent and Abbotsford was fourth at 117.3 per cent. To reflect new beds added at our hospital, we estimate a current occupancy rate of 108 per cent, 20 “hallway patients.”

A contributing factor is the number of patients waiting in hospital for a long-term care bed to become available. The 120 new Golden Life care beds for 2021 will not solve our hospital problem. We estimate that the number of care beds will not meet our 2017 requirement and hospital over-capacity will be similar to 2019.

We need a concrete, measurable Island Health plan to bring our hospital capacity levels below 100 per cent on a sustainable basis in time for its next planning cycle and based on realistic projections for our growing, aging population. For more information visit fairsharehealthcarecomoxvalley.wordpress.com

Liza Schmalcel, Tony de Castro, and Peggy Stirrett

Comox Valley

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