A snowball effect on emergency care

Staff writer
November 23, 2012 01:00 AM


My intention in writing this letter is not as a complaint, but as a form of support for the community.

In the last few years I have noticed a decline in the services offered by the emergency facilities at St. Mary's Hospital. When I made enquiries with the staff as to why this is, they informed me that they had repeatedly complained to the hospital administration about under-staffing without resolve.Having enquired further, I was informed that the root of the problem is of the eight beds in the emergency unit, up to five are used at times to accommodate "extended care" rather than "acute" patients. This is apparently due to the lack of long-term care facilities on the Coast, so when there are no families to look after these (elderly) people, they end up being housed in emergency.

I was informed that under these circumstances the nurses in emergency do not have time to triage (assess) patients on arrival, or are quite rightly reluctant to separate from one another for safety reasons (at night), or are just too exhausted. Which means that the doctors on duty often prioritize patient treatment (which patients to treat first) based on the information passed on to them by the receptionist in emergency and on the time it is estimated to treat each patient. In other words, the doctor is managing patients not based on just the threat issue but on time management, and the receptionist is inadvertently influencing the triage work instead of the nurses or a doctor.

It appears that the external lack of resources to care for the increasing number of infirm elderly on the Coast is having a "snowball" effect on emergency care.

William Chamberlain, Roberts Creek

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