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‘Very shocking’: Abbotsford Hospital ER compared to a scene from M*A*S*H

Click to play video: 'Nurses say understaffing is putting lives at risk' Nurses say understaffing is putting lives at risk
The B.C. Nurses’ Union says understaffing at many hospitals, particularly at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, is creating an increasingly dangerous situation that’s putting lives at risk – Mar 3, 2017

A chronic staffing shortage at Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s emergency room is putting lives at risk, according to the B.C. Nurses Union, who is sounding the alarm about what they call a desperate situation.

The union is comparing emergency room conditions at some Lower Mainland hospitals to scenes from television’s M*A*S*H. But there’s nothing funny about the issue, they said on Thursday.

Visitors to Abbotsford Hospital’s emergency room say it’s frightening.

“The screaming was like the fear of death. You could feel it,” said Jason Waddliove, who visited the ER this week with his mother when a child passed out right in front of them.

The wait to get him help was excruciating, Waddilove said. He’s now saying he’s scared to bring his mom back to that ER.

This isn’t the first time Abbotsford Regional Hospital has been under fire for their emergency room operations. Reviews have already been launched into the recent deaths of two patients.

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Mary Lou Murphy went to Abbotsford Regional Hospital on Jan. 30 – sweating profusely and in considerable pain. After a five-hour wait she was given a shot of morphine and sent home, Fraser Health said. She died the next day.

READ MORE: Another family wants answers after woman dies a day after discharge from Abbotsford hospital

Just a week later, Balraj Gill took her three-year-old daughter Nimrat to the hospital with a fever. Gill said she was advised to go home and give her daughter Tylenol. She was rushed back to the hospital the next day after her condition worsened, where she later died.

A doctor’s report claimed that Nimrat succumbed to “a large left-sided pneumonia… septic shock related to this with resulting respiratory failure leading to cardiac arrest.”

READ MORE: ‘How can it happen to her?’ Abbotsford family wants answers after 3-year-old dies in hospital

The B.C. Nurses Union recently toured the emergency room and have flagged some major areas of concern.

“The nurses are consistently stretched, they are stressed, they are working 16-hour shifts, they are working without breaks, they’re tripping over people,” Gayle Duteil, president of the union, said.

“The ambulance bay was full of patients. I saw a number of psychiatric patients being held in chairs designed for seniors. It was very, very shocking and I could see how difficult this was for the nurses who were there.”

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The union says there should be 88 nurses in the ER but there are currently 32 missing.

It is pushing the Fraser Health Authority to address what the union calls a “systemic issue” and a “history of mismanagement” that is putting patients at risk. Duteil is asking the Fraser Health board of directors to listen directly to the nurses on the ground and hear their concerns.

Some of the complaints from nurses at the hospital include grossly congested hallways, psychiatric patients being held in recliners and limited bathroom facilities, according to a release from the union.

Michael Marchbank, president and CEO of Fraser Health, acknowledges the authority has 30 vacant positions, but says they have “significantly expanded the specialty training” they do.

Marchbank says he walks through the emergency room often and has no problem with speaking to the nurses to hear their perspective.

With files from John Hua

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