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Surrey ER closure causes 30 per cent spike in visits to Delta Hospital

Delta Hospital has seen a 30 per cent spike in emergency room patients since Surrey Memorial Hospital
Delta Hospital has seen a 30 per cent spike in emergency room patients since Surrey Memorial Hospital's ER had to be closed last week due to flooding.
— image credit: South Delta Leader Files

Delta Hospital has seen a 30 per cent increase in emergency room visits since Surrey Memorial Hospital's ER closed last week after contractors struck a water main while doing renovation work.

Annette Garm, site director at Delta Hospital, said the hospital has brought in extra physicians and staff to deal with the added volume, and opened up an additional 11 medical beds, increasing from 51 to 62.

"With the help of our auxiliary, we put in eight more beds, and we asked for additional beds from Peace Arch [Hospital]," said Garm. "Our team has done a really good job dealing with the increased congestion."

In addition to increased walk-in visits to the ER, the B.C. Ambulance Service has also been diverting patients that would normally have gone to Surrey Memorial Hospital to Delta Hospital.

No surgeries scheduled at Delta Hospital were postponed as result of the influx of patients, however, some day surgeries were added to alleviate pressure at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Garm said she expects patient volume at the hospital to remain high until Surrey Memorial Hospital can reopen their ER, which Fraser Health expects to happen by early next week.

As a result of the added staff, Garm said wait times at the Delta Hospital ER have not been significantly impacted. However, those with minor ailments would be better off served by a walk-in clinic.

"Do come to the ER if you have an urgent medical issue," she said. "We certainly don't want to discourage people coming to the ER, and we don't want a situation where people aren't coming to the ER because of concerns about congestion. But something like a common cold is best served [by your family doctor]… or at a walk-in clinic."

Garm said the Surrey ER closure has provided staff at Delta Hospital valuable experience, should a large-scale natural disaster ever occur.

"The increase in volume we've seen is similar to what we would expect in a disaster," she said.

Staff at the hospital regularly hold "Code Orange" disaster drills, and department heads routinely meet to discuss response strategies.

"Thanks to the work of our emergency planning committee, we were very well-prepared," said Garm. "Our team did a really good job. It really speaks volumes about the kind of staff we have."

Water burst through the back wall of the Surrey Memorial Hospital ER after an excavator broke a water main on Nov. 19, creating an estimated $2 to $3 million in damage.

Fraser Health officials expect insurance held by the subcontractor responsible for the break will cover damage, but that's still to be worked out. The hospital itself is also fully insured.

Royal Columbian, Peace Arch and Langley Memorial hospitals have felt the most impact from the diversion of ER patients who would normally go to Surrey.

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