Senior laments hallway stay

Patient who spent two weeks in hallways says it's time for the government to invest in the health care system

Jean Myles

After spending most of two weeks in a hospital hallway, an 84-year-old Maple Ridge woman said it is no place to treat patients.

With her ordeal in a Royal Columbian Hospital hall behind her, Jean Myles says it’s time for the government to invest in the health care system, with a room for every patient being a basic standard of care.

On Feb. 20, she went to Ridge Meadows Hospital complaining of severe bladder problems. She has had only one kidney for 65 years, and worried that she was suffering some complications. In extreme pain, she was transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

Myles had few complaints with the quality of care there, except that she was kept in a hallway.

She shared the hall with about nine other people, so there was no privacy. There was constant traffic and noise, but her chief complaint was constant exposure to the bright hallway lights.

At one point, she stretched a surgical mask across her eyes to block the light out. By the end of the senior’s two-week stay, her vision was limited.

“That light really bothered me tremendously,” she said. “I worried I was going blind. I can focus now – it’s coming around.”

Myles was admitted in the hallway for four days, and an imaging test revealed what appeared to be two tumours on her bladder.

“After four days, I got a room for two days, and then was pulled in the middle of the night back into the hall,” she said.

The room had been much more comfortable, but then she was wheeled back into the hallway. Nobody told her why. She used the washroom in that same room, and saw that although she had been awoken and moved, she was not replaced with another patient. Still, she had to remain in the hallway.

The lack of a comfortable hospital situation made her unwilling to stay beyond the two weeks. Her doctor wanted Myles to get a biopsy, so he could rule out cancer, but she would not stay in the hospital any longer. In any case, at her age, she would not want to undergo chemotherapy, she said.

Myles said the government should commit to having a room for every patient, as a basic level of care.

“If you’ve got a balanced budget, why don’t they put more money into health care?”

On Tuesday, Fraser Health announced it will be spending $5 million on an initiative that should do just that.

The health authority wants to prevent avoidable hospital admissions, support processes that allow patients to return home from hospital sooner, and increase health care supports in the community.

“Improving the experience of care for our patients and their families is a priority for all of us and I believe if we think differently we can begin to see changes right away,” says Michael Marchbank, president and CEO of Fraser Health.

“One change we are focusing on immediately is the way we have come to rely on hospitals, including beds in hallways. We are implementing a plan that gets us closer to a day when we might not need to use hallway beds at all.”

Health Minister Terry Lake said the new measures are in line with his ministry’s strategy to reduce reliance on hospitals.

Some of the investments Fraser Health is implementing support its “Home is Best” philosophy:

• Adding geriatric emergency nurse clinicians and quick response case managers in more emergency departments, with weekend coverage. These roles have proven successful in helping prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

• Increasing accountability and efficiency in care and discharge planning, so patients aren’t staying in hospital longer than is necessary.

• Adding coverage of patient care coordinators on weekends to improve patient transitions. These individuals coordinate patient care activities to ensure patients are ready to go home sooner, and create more efficient hospital operations.

• Increasing availability of social workers and occupational therapists to support weekend discharges for hospitals that do not already have this available.

• Adding 11 home health liaison positions, so patients can go home sooner from hospital, and recover comfortably at home with health care supports.

• Working with our residential care partners to ensure smooth transition from hospital, so people can move into residential care sooner.

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