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Hospital Employees Union addresses concerns over new North Island Hospitals

COURTENAY, B.C. – Since the new North Island Hospitals have opened up in the Comox Valley and in Campbell River, issues have arisen, particularly regarding over-capacity and the care of seniors at both facilities.

Jennifer Whiteside, the Secretary Business Manager with the Hospital Employees Union, said the issues are a very real concern.

“Our members are saying that the hospital (in the Comox Valley) is consistently running over-capacity and that there are always more patients in the hospital who require care than the hospital is actually funded for,” she said.

Whiteside noted that there are a few steps that need to be taken to solve the problems at the hospitals.

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“It’s a brand-new hospital, and when I was touring the (Comox Valley) hospital last week, there were 178 admitted patients. The hospital is funded for 129 beds. That means there were considerably more patients that the hospital really has the capacity to take care of. Those folks were in hallways and rooms that were not designed to care for patients,” she said.

Whiteside noted that one of the pressures that the Health Authority is facing is a “lack of appropriate residential care beds in the Comox Valley.”

“That means there are seniors in hospital waiting for more appropriate care in a nursing home setting, but they cannot move out of the hospital because there isn’t anywhere for them to go,” she explained.

“I think that it’s really critical that the Health Authority work with the Ministry of Health to figure out how they can get more Health Authority-owned and operated residential care beds up and running in the Comox Valley.”

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She said it’s also important that the Health Authority look at how it can deal with the patient wing that they have on the fourth floor of the Comox Valley hospital.

She explained that would alleviate some of the patients being serviced in the hallways, however the wing is currently being used to house the health records.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

Whiteside said people are working on the fourth floor, but is hopeful that another appropriate workspace is found for those employees.

“Areas that were particularly constructed to take care of patients should be occupied by patients.”
She said that going forward, the Health Authority must to do a few things:

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• Develop a plan to increase the number of available nursing home beds in the Comox Valley.
• Talk with the Ministry of Health and develop a plan to get the fourth floor unit up and running for patients.
• Need to address the issue of workload that additional patients are creating.

Whiteside added that problems are not just arising at the Comox Valley hospital.

“I think that our members in the Campbell River hospital report experiencing very many of the same issues. That hospital is also chronically over-capacity,” she said.

However, Whiteside did explain that the Health Authority does have what’s called an overcapacity protocol.

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“I understand in the Comox Valley, it’s been in operation just about every day, and that’s the particular procedures to follow when there are more patients that they can normally accommodate in the hospital,” she said.

She added that P3 financing should be studied. Both facilities are listed as public private partnerships (P3). This means that the infrastructure was financed privately and the Health Authority leases the hospital.

“Are there are issues related to the fact that these are P3 hospitals, is that having any impact on their ability to be nimble and respond to demands and that increase they can track with respect to the number of patients who need care,” she said.

Both facilities have been in operation since last fall.

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