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Port Moody council lobbies for more funding for ERH
Hallway medicine has come to Eagle Ridge Hospital, according to a letter calling for a $20-million expansion and more operating funding for the Port Moody hospital to provide more beds and reduce inefficiencies that cost Fraser Health more money.
The letter, by Port Moody Coun. Rick Glumac to B.C.’s assistant deputy finance minister, Chris Brown as part of an operational review of Fraser Health, says ERH is chronically underfunded, resulting in more people being treated in hallways, patient transfers to other regional hospitals and other cost pressures.
According to the letter, which Port Moody council unanimously endorsed Tuesday, only 168 beds are funded for a hospital built for 200 beds but, on average, 12 to 30 “extra beds are used in the hospital hallways on a monthly basis and are classified as ‘over capacity/unbudgeted.’”
As well, the emergency room was built to serve 20,000 patients annually but is currently serving 50,000.
Glumac said the letter is based on information gleaned from discussions with the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation and reflect concerns ERH isn’t able to meet the needs of Tri-City residents.
But the head of Eagle Ridge Hospital says Fraser Health is already looking at redeveloping its emergency room to meet increasing demand and is looking at other measures to reduce pressures, such as opening more residential care beds for the elderly in the Tri-Cities.
Valerie Spurrell, ERH executive director, said in a statement that she welcomes the “support the community shows us” and is developing a plan for the community to address ongoing needs. As well, she said the hospital isn’t full but has enough acute care capacity so that “only in rare cases do we need to use alternate areas of care.”
According to Glumac, who represents Port Moody on the Fraser Health Municipal Advisory Council, the letter is meant to spur the provincial government to boost funding. He told PoMo council he’s hoping “that we can actually get them to listen to this request and consider ways to operate more efficiently in the Fraser Health region.”
Still, some councillors said they are concerned about the letter.
Councillors Diana Dilworth and Gerry Nuttall said they’re worried Glumac had either overstepped his authority or that the information wasn’t accurate, although their colleague assured them that he got the information from reliable sources on the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation.
The letter lists several ways Fraser Health could save money if it gave more funding to ERH to provide more beds, such as when Royal Columbian Hospital is over capacity and sends patients on a short-term basis to ERH. According to the letter, opening beds for such temporary measures incurs overtime and other costs.
The letter also notes that the population of the Tri-Cities is set to grow 50% in 20 years and needs a larger hospital with services that other hospitals provide, such as a maternity ward and pediatric observation beds.
“Investing a smaller amount of money in Eagle Ridge Hospital in the shorter term will result in much-needed improvement in health care to the areas served by both hospitals,” the letter states.
Instead, ERH is transferring many of its acute care patients — more than 500 over two years — to Burnaby, Surrey Memorial and Abbotsford Regional hospitals. “These patient transfers come at a huge cost to the province and can be saved by diverting these funds to the expansion of surgical hours of operation at Eagle Ridge Hospital,” the letter further states.
Other issues, include a shortage of respiratory services and monitored care beds are also mentioned.
The Ministry of Health’s ongoing operational review of Fraser Health is supposed to be ready at the end of May, a spokesperson said. Meanwhile, the province has replaced Fraser Health board chair David Mitchell with Wynne Powell, the long-time chair of the Provincial Health Services Authority.