Alarming decline in hospital care in B.C. says MLA

'Hallway healthcare'

Last week, it was reported an 87-year-old senior spent nine days in the hallway at Victoria General Hospital.

Anyone who has spent any time in a hospital will know the hallways are always busy. The lights are always on and it is not somewhere to recover or rest.

This man was shuffled up and down the hallway until he ended up being placed right by the nurses station. He chose to go public because he doesn’t think anyone should have to endure what he went through.

This “hallway healthcare” has become the new normal in the last seven years, with hallway beds receiving permanent hospital placements as part of the daily bed count. Nursing staff and physicians have asked that the practice be discontinued, but now these beds have been added to the hospitals numbers as if space has been created.

Imagine seeking help in a time of need, only to find your hospital bed is a gurney in a hallway. That is the harsh reality for too many in B.C., where the concept of privacy and comfort in healthcare has slipped through the cracks.

Unfortunately, these stories are not unique, after seven years of the current government and Health Minister Adrian Dix. My office frequently hears from Kelowna residents with heartbreaking stories of their experiences with our once envied healthcare system.

Receiving care in hallways, the daily exhaustion of nursing staff without enough colleagues to deliver the care they know patients need, and the waiting that leads to dying prematurely.

This is a crisis that has been quietly festering—a healthcare system that's seen better days, notably fraying under seven years of NDP governance. This isn't just about numbers on a chart or policy debates in the halls of power. It's about real-life consequences for people who call BC home.

Yes, the system is struggling across the country, but unfortunately, B.C. is at the bottom of the results list, delivering the worst care in Canada.

This is no fault of the amazing professionals who show up every day to do their best work. There are just not enough of them, and not enough capacity in the system to have them deliver the tests or treatment necessary for patients to recover.

While the health minister has extolled the high numbers of nursing staff being added to the system, they are not apparent on the front lines. At the heart of any healthcare system are its people. Yet, in our province, the heartbeat is weak with the alarming shortage of nurses. This crisis stretches beyond numbers— it's about the human toll—overworked staff, compromised care and a profession under immense stress. The ripple effects are profound, impacting patient experiences and outcomes.

Contract, non-permanent travel nurses are being used in greater numbers, with the costs two to three times the cost to the system.

Meanwhile, the vaccine mandate continues unnecessarily, with B.C. the last jurisdiction in North America to maintain it. With more 5,000 nursing vacancies in B.C., all of the healthcare workers fired during the pandemic should be hired back immediately.

And what is the result of a lack of capacity and a lack of nurses? Waiting.

Waiting is the new normal in B.C.’s healthcare (system), from elective surgeries to critical treatments. Delays can be more than just inconvenient, they can alter lives—sometimes irreversibly.

The bottleneck in treatment capacity speaks to a deeper issue of foresight and investment—or the lack thereof. Expanding our capacity to care is not just a necessity, it's an obligation we owe to every resident.

These aren't mere statistics, they're missed dinners, empty chairs and unfinished stories.

The most disturbing part of this analysis is the government believes everything is OK and they are doing a good job at answering the needs of patients in B.C.

We need government to see the desperation of the system, and acknowledge the catastrophic results.

British Columbians will go to the polls this year to elect a new provincial government. I can assure you that B.C> United Leader) Kevin Falcon and BC United will not let the status quo stand when it comes to delivering health care to the people of BC.

I have a couple of questions for you this week:

What has been your experience with our healthcare system and if you were in charge, what would you change?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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