Hospitals jammed but Fraser Health predicts progress

Board chair Karen Matty says winter flu surge a blip as FHA reforms kick in (with interactive charts by hospital)

Fraser Health board chair Karen Matty.

Hospitals in Fraser Health remain severely congested despite the launch of a new strategy last year to improve patient flow, according to the authority’s latest statistics.

Less than 39 per cent of the region’s emergency patients last year were admitted to hospital within 10 hours – far below a provincial target of 55 per cent – suggesting hallway medicine remains rampant in ERs.

The numbers were worst at Langley and Delta hospitals (both at 29 per cent), Peace Arch (31 per cent), Mission Memorial (32 per cent), and Surrey Memorial and Chilliwack General (both at 32 per cent.) That means more than two-thirds of ER patients in all those hospitals typically waited longer than 10 hours for a bed.

Other key capacity indicators in the health region’s newly released monthly report card show hospitals across the region are also struggling to meet targets to limit the average length of patient stay, the number of patients staying more than 30 days and the proportion of patients who could instead be treated at home or in other settings instead of hospital.

Fraser Health board chair Karen Matty said ERs are jammed right now from the annual winter surge, mainly due to large numbers of patients arriving sick from the flu.

“You don’t build an airport for the Christmas rush and you don’t build a hospital for the flu season,” Matty said in an interview. “The airlines get to say ‘We’re sold out.’ But we can’t turn patients away.”

Matty said she’s confident Fraser will soon see good results from its new strategic and operational plan, which was completed last year after a review ordered by Health Minister Terry Lake.

“We’ve turned the ship in my view,” she said. “We’re on a very positive road to try to shift services to the community.”

The plan aims to find new ways to decongest hospitals by providing more services at home or in community settings, and also by preventative medicine to limit chronic disease rates as the population ages.

As more capacity comes on line outside hospitals, it’s hoped there will be fewer people in hospital who don’t need to be occupying a bed, clogging the flow of incoming patients.

Matty said there’s a “huge” effort underway to work to ensure more residents across the region have a family doctor where they can get much treatment.

“If people don’t have a family physician, they end up in the ER.”

More residential care beds, home care services and working with families of patients are all parts of the region’s interlinked approach, she said.

The very fact congestion statistics and various other performance measures are now being made public in monthly report cards for the entire region and each hospital is also a significant improvement, she added.

“We’ve become far more transparent and accountable,” Matty said. “The report cards help us focus. We’ve never had a reporting mechanism like this.”

Several indicators show significant improvement, including rates of infection by resistant bacteria like C. difficile and MRSA that are now much better than the region’s targets.

Fraser Health is also on track to end the year almost right on its $3.3-billion budget at the end of March, perhaps with a very thin surplus.

Cost control allowed the region to increase the number of surgeries and MRI scans it performs until the fiscal year finishes at the end of March.

HOSPITAL STATISTICS | Crear infográficos

View more details and complete report cards as of January 2015:Fraser Health full report cardAbbotsford Regional HospitalBurnaby HospitalChilliwack General HospitalDelta HospitalEagle Ridge HospitalFraser Canyon HospitalLangley Memorial HospitalPeace Arch HospitalMission Memorial HospitalRidge Meadows HospitalRoyal Columbian HospitalSurrey Memorial Hospital