May 12, 2015 4:38 pm
Updated: May 12, 2015 4:48 pm

N.B. doctors speak out on severe overcrowding in hospitals, calling it “inhumane”

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Above watch: Doctors at hospitals across the province spoke out today on the severe overcrowding they are seeing everyday and want the government to react. Alex Abdelwahab reports.

MONCTON – Doctors at several Horizon Health Network hospital in the province are raising concerns over severe overcrowding they say they see every day.

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In a letter addressed to Health Minister Victor Boudreau, Minister of Social Development Cathy Rogers, and the board of directors and executive of Horizon Health, medical staff wrote that they wanted “to voice the concerns of our physicians regarding the “the overcapacity situation” in our acute care hospitals.

Dr. Pam Mansfield, clinical director of palliative care and president of medical staff at the Moncton Hospital, told Global News the problem has reached a crisis level, and called the treatment of patients “inhumane.”

“Just a couple of weeks ago I was looking after a patient,” Dr. Mansfield said, explaining that the palliative care patient was sharing a room with a cancer patient, separated only by a curtain. “This one man is receiving his chemo therapy trying to recover from his cancer and the bed next to him he’s listening to someone die from their cancer.

“I can’t image how disheartening it is for both of those families.”

Dr. Mansfield said acute care beds are being taken up by seniors who are left to deteriorate in hospitals because it’s not the right place for them. They should be housed either at home, a special-care home or nursing home in the province.

“We had patients who were being housed in the kitchenettes of hospital units, housed in the hallways,” Dr. Mansfield said. “We had people who were in a four-bed ward, all of a sudden turned into a five-bed ward,” she explained that the fifth bed would go in the middle of the other four, meaning that person doesn’t have the same access to medical equipment.

“There’s no oxygen hook-up. There’s no hook-up for IV pumps,” she said.

The letter was signed by Dr. Mansfield and the presidents of medical staff from the Saint John Hospital, Upper River Valley Hospital, Miramichi Hospital and Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton.

In it they gave six solutions they say the government could implement immediately to improve the situation.

  • Reverse the policy on specialized care beds.  Seniors with physical problems, not just dementia need and deserve access to these resources.
  • Increase the wages for personal support workers/home care workers and pay for the travel to seniors’ homes.
  • Meet standardized assessment times for long term care
  • Extra funding for nursing homes for seniors with extra care needs.  Some seniors wait for years in hospital, never getting to a nursing home because they have higher care needs.
  • Have a social worker on call evenings/overnight in hospitals to work with families and patients with complex psychosocial care needs.
  • Help fund residential hospices in the province.

“There may be some good suggestions there, but we have to figure out how we’re going to pay for it,” Health Minister Victor Boudreau told reporters. “Obviously those recommendations add up to millions of dollars on an annual basis.”

Boudreau said he had only received the letter a week ago and the situation is not going to be resolved over night, but they are working on it.

Dr. Mansfield said she doesn’t think the government fully understands how severe the situation on the ground is and invited Minister Boudreau and Rogers to spend a day in hospital with them.

“The moral from staff, trying to look after these patients, [while] not having the resources, knowing you’re not doing the best for them,” she said. “It really is disheartening to us who work here day to day.”

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