Tuesday March 25, 2008
Sound the alarm on the B.C. gov't
By BILL TIELEMAN
It's time to put patient care first. To do that, we must renew public health care, through better management, adequate funding, proper staffing and sound strategic planning.
- Premier Gordon Campbell, 2001 election platform
What a long, sad gap there is between the B.C. Liberals' lofty health-care goals of 2001 and the grim reality of March 12, 2008.
That's when Surrey Memorial Hospital declared a Code Orange alert, cancelling all non-emergency surgeries because of massive emergency room overcrowding, calling in off-duty doctors and keeping health-care workers on overtime.
Code Orange is extremely rare, reserved for emergencies with mass casualties, like earthquakes or floods. A Code Orange was declared last year when a small aircraft crashed into a Richmond highrise.
But not this time. It was because Surrey's congested hospital had 41 patients admitted in the ER and not one bed free. And it also happened in January.
Then there's Code Purple - an overcapacity alert just below Code Orange requiring other nearby hospitals to provide resources.
On March 10, Kelowna General Hospital issued a Code Purple because it already had 176 patients in the emergency ward instead of an average 140.
And there's New Westmin-ster's Royal Columbian Hospital, where, on February 12, the fire inspector ordered the emergency room cleared due to overcrowding.
That was the day of B.C.'s throne speech, which promised the government "will act to improve health care" and mentioned the word "health" 84 different times.
So you just might think all these alerts would alarm B.C. Liberal Health Minister George Abbott. Wrong.
"Anyone who thinks that the problem is going to go away is dreaming," Abbott actually told reporters, saying patients would have to get used to it.
"A lot of this demand is driven by a society that gets older, year over year, and is going to continue to do so," Abbott said. "This is going to be challenging for about the next 40 years, until the post-World War II baby boomers make their way through [the health-care system]."
Challenging for 40 years? Is Abbott kidding? Why should patients put up with substandard health care for four decades?
The B.C. Liberals have had seven years to deal with health-care problems. In their 2001 election platform, they even said: "Emergency rooms are overflowing in B.C."
Overflowing? Now overflowing emergency rooms prompt alerts reserved for floods!
And what has the government done? Closed St. Mary's Hospital in New Westminster with no replacement. Failed to meet a 2001 promise of 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2006. Closed acute care beds, causing increased waiting lists for surgery.
We need a Code Orange alright - for an incompetent, uncaring B.C. Liberal government that needs to hear the alarm.