Concerns raised about patient safety at St. Mary’s Hospital last week have Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) defending the fact they are running over capacity this week.
Coast Reporter received an anonymous tip that said the hospital was near capacity with just two beds left to serve incoming patients on Sept. 17. Calls to VCH about the issue were not returned by press time last week; however, media spokesperson Trudi Beutel addressed the issue on Sept. 25.
“First off, I haven’t been able to isolate the ‘two bed’ scenario for you,” Beutel wrote in an email to Coast Reporter. “The numbers of acute care beds that are available at any given time changes rapidly, and often several times throughout the day.”
Regardless, she noted that having two beds left for patients wouldn’t be considered a problem at St. Mary’s Hospital.
“In order to function efficiently, we typically strive to hit 98 to 100 per cent occupancy rates to ensure we’re using all our resources as efficiently as possible. This means few beds sit unoccupied,” Beutel said. “To ensure people get a bed when they need one, we focus aggressively on patient flow. That is, we actively monitor how quickly people receive their care (to ensure there are no unnecessary holdups with diagnostics, lab results, etc.) and when patients are ready for safe discharge, we do that as quickly as possible. This patient care program is called iCare.”
She said statistics for the week of Sept. 17 showed the hospital was actually running at 10 beds over capacity.
“To accommodate high demand we do a number of things: we create temporary space in a five-bed ward that is only opened during time of over-capacity. We also hold more frequent team meetings during the day to ensure that patients who are able to safely return home, can do so,” Beutel said. “However, it certainly can’t be understated that last week was difficult for both staff and patients, and for this we apologize.”
She said typically the hospital has been running at five beds over capacity.
“No single factor appears to be at the root of these increased patient volumes, and the situation is not the result of any changes or reduction in service or resources at the hospital,” she said.
It is likely that a high demand for residential care beds is impacting the overage and Beutel said VCH is working on a solution to that problem.
“For instance, a program known as Home is Best will allow us to augment supports in the community so those who can return to their own homes with additional help are able to do so,” she said. “Patient volumes are something each of our hospitals is dealing with, and processes and programs such as iCare and Home is Best are being implemented all the time to handle the increasing numbers.”