Emergency departments across BC on high alert

May 10, 2023

Doctors of BC supports the Section of Emergency Medicine with the message they have sent to media around the province regarding the major challenges in emergency departments across the province as doctors struggle to provide safe and timely care for patients. News release can be found below:

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May 10, 2023

Section of Emergency Medicine

Emergency departments across BC on high-alert –Crisis at Langley Memorial Hospital is happening across the province.

Doctors across the Lower Mainland received an e-mail recently from a concerned physician advising them to avoid sending patients who need urgent medical attention to Langley Memorial Hospital, which has been “overrun with patients” and near collapse. This is not an isolated incident. What is happening at Langley hospital is taking place in emergency departments (EDs) across the province.

“Our emergency departments are on red alert,” says Dr Gord McInnes, co-president of the Section of Emergency Medicine. “Our patients are suffering, and the doctors struggling to provide their care are tired and distressed. Our patients need and deserve better. They deserve to know that they will be safe, and that they will be cared for when they go to an emergency department for help. The dire situation we are facing now cannot continue.”

Too many patients, including those with serious medical conditions, are being warehoused in emergency rooms for 24 to 48 hours before moving out of the emergency department and into a bed on the appropriate ward, while their conditions worsen. Patients are waiting upwards of 8 hours to see a doctor, so that by the time they receive care, their condition has seriously declined. Research shows that after 6 hours of waiting in the emergency department for care, mortality and morbidity increase by 10%.

“We need the provincial government to work with us on real solutions to relieve the pressures in our hospitals, which are the root of the problems in our EDs,” says Dr McInnes. “Solutions will need to address some of the biggest challenges, among them the need for more beds to build capacity, and to address the shortage of health care staff.  

In the short-term, we ask that government and health authorities take steps to help weather the storm.

  • First and foremost, health authorities must empower physicians and nurses to call “code orange” – a protocol that ensures patients are immediately moved into other areas of the hospital when the ED reaches critical limits for admitted patients. This will give us the space to assess, diagnose, and initiate treatment to patients still coming into our emergency department.
  • We need a process that would switch acutely ill patients in the emergency department who are waiting for a bed on a specialty nursing ward with a recovered patient in that ward waiting to be discharged. This would mean that those needing the most urgent attention can get it, and those who need monitoring as they wait to be discharged will also be attended to.

For patients in an emergency, please don’t hesitate to come to the emergency department. If you are unsure whether the emergency department is the right place, please reach out to services like 811 to seek advice.

For media interviews, please phone: 604-638-2832.