Prince Albert hospital issues ‘code burgundy’ to deal with overcapacity

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – An overcapacity crisis continues to cripple the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region (PAPHR). On Monday, all surgeries where an in-patient bed was required had to be cancelled. Day surgeries were still going ahead but it’s likely all major surgeries, such as knee and hip replacements, will need to be put on hold Tuesday as well.

READ MORE: Many concerned about upcoming Saskatoon Health Region cuts

According to officials, the total number of surgeries that will need to be rescheduled is less than a handful. Still, the situation is less than ideal as health care teams on-site at Victoria Hospital try to get a handle on overcapacity.

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“Last night, we had a consensus of 113 per cent which means we have 13 or 14 extra patients,” said Sharon Griffin, director of acute care nursing with PAPHR.

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According to Griffin, 80 to 85 per cent consensus is optimal which is why the region issued a “code burgundy” on Sunday.

“We went into code burgundy yesterday again, we’ve been in code burgundy most of the month of November,” said Carol Gregoryk, vice-president of integrated health services with PAPHR.

“Code burgundy to us means that we have over 10 people who do not have a bed and they’re admitted so they have no bed to go to.”

When the code is called by the region, all surrounding health regions are notified, including Saskatoon.

“We look for ways to get people home quicker with home care or able to send people off with other health regions,” said Gregoryk.

“We do have a small hospital in Shellbrook as well where we are able to send people who are from that area or even people from Prince Albert too if they do have a bed, but they’re usually at capacity as well.”

Approximately 30,000 visits are made to Victoria Hospital every year and 5,700 surgeries were performed in 2014. Gregoryk says chronic disease among the region’s population is to blame for higher patient demand.

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Meanwhile in Saskatoon, all three hospitals are overcapacity and according to the predictive model, the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) will be in a surge this week and into next week.

SHR provides 30 per cent of in-patient services to patients that are from outside of region, without any transferred funding from those regions.

Some of the key services being accessed include:

  • Adult medicine – 18 per cent;
  • Surgery – 41 per cent;
  • Heart health – 44 per cent;
  • Oncology – 36 per cent;
  • Brain health – 40 per cent;
  • Kidney health – 49 percent;
  • Children’s services – 39 per cent;
  • Maternal services – 24 per cent.

When a code burgundy is issued in Prince Albert, there is a wait list of patients essentially stuck in SHR until it’s safe to return to a hospital closer to home.

On Monday, there were four people on that list as they waited for overcapacity issues to ease and the code burgundy to be lifted in PAPHR.

“People want to come home and they should be able to come home but the problem for us is our demand is exceeding our capacity to manage here,” added Gregoryk.

The situation is not fun for anyone as PAPHR prepares itself for a surge in patient volumes in January. The SHR is expecting 120 more patients than there are beds the same month.


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