Island Health reviewing ER discharge policies after reported ‘patient dumping’

Click to play video: 'B.C. health minister responds to allegations of ‘patient dumping’ from hospitals'
B.C. health minister responds to allegations of ‘patient dumping’ from hospitals
More fallout after Global BC reported hospital patients are being discharged from hospitals and left on nearby bus stops or benches. Health Minister Adrian Dix says patients who are unruly or threatening staff or others may be escorted out of the facility. Kristen Robinson reports – Jan 22, 2024

Vancouver Island’s health authority is  reviewing its emergency discharge procedures for hospital patients following reports of ‘patient dumping.’

Island Health informed Global News of the development on Friday, a few days after a story on reports of dumping in Vancouver, which included comments from a Victoria woman who said she’d witnessed similar incidents locally.

Julianna, who asked that her last name not be used for safety reasons, moved across from Royal Jubilee Hospital’s emergency department in 2020. She’s seen security officers regularly bringing patients to the bus stop outside her building.

“A lot of people would be begging for help when they were left at the bus stop,” Julianna previously told Global News. “Obviously in a lot of pain or mental anguish.”

Click to play video: 'Patient dumping alleged at second B.C. hospital'
Patient dumping alleged at second B.C. hospital

Last year, the Victoria resident said she called 911 for a man who was asking for help to get an ambulance to a sobriety centre — after he’d been dropped at the bus stop long after transit service had ended for the evening.

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Island Health acknowledged patients being discharged in this manner can have a negative impact on the surrounding community.

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“Any time Island Health becomes aware of care concerns or opportunities to improve our processes, we take them extremely seriously,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“A discharge plan should include compassionate patient support and as noted earlier this week, we are reviewing our processes to ensure they are reflective of Island Health’s values and standards.”

Island Health said situations involving patients with complex care needs and concurrent social issues can be “very challenging” for its staff and care teams, and it will be following up with them to make sure they have the access to information and resources they need “to provide the best care possible to (their) patients.”

It also said its “protection service officers” are not “generally used” in the discharge process and are used when staff or other patients’ safety is at risk.

Another witness in Vancouver said he has seen dozens of patients being dumped at a bench across the street from Vancouver General Hospital.

Click to play video: 'Concerns about alleged patient dumping at VGH'
Concerns about alleged patient dumping at VGH

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix responded Monday to allegations that patients at Vancouver General Hospital and Royal Jubilee Hospital are being discharged to benches and bus stops.

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Dix said hospitals in the province see 200,000 emergency room visits per month and that he doesn’t believe patients are being dumped outside.

“This issue is of what happens to people when they leave the hospital is of central concern to everybody who works in a hospital in B.C.,” the health minister said in an interview Monday.

Dix added that patients who are aggressive and/or abusive to hospital staff may be escorted off the property.

“There are circumstances where a patient, for whatever reason, is being disruptive and needs to leave and we’re trying to support them, but also have concerns for other patients for staff and everyone else,” the health minister said.

Hospitals are not designed to serve as hotels or shelter, and when asked what options staff have when a person without a home is ready for discharge, Dix said health care workers often work with a person to go over lists of housing that might be available.

“In the case of someone presenting at an emergency room, there’s a series of supports that can be given once you’re determined you don’t need to be there,” Dix told Global News.

Those include transportation incentives like bus passes and taxi vouchers.

— With files from Kristen Robinson


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