Time is now to demand more beds for new hospital

Hopefully, Cowichan won’t suffer the same fate as the North Island hospitals

Time is now to demand more beds for new hospital

This letter is in support of Bryan Senft’s letter, titled “Questions abound about new hospital, water, old hospital and forests”, in regards to the question about Cowichan’s new hospital’s proposed number of beds.

I live in the Comox Valley and our almost-two-year-old hospital is currently the most overcrowded hospital in all of Vancouver Island. From the period of April 1, 2018 to March 7, 2019, the Cowichan District Hospital is the fourth most-overcrowded hospital on Vancouver Island at an average capacity rate of 108 per cent, according to information I received through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

I don’t need an FOI request to access StatsCan to figure out the bed per 1,000 population ratio for Cowichan and Comox, the ratio being a benchmark for hospital performance.

The Cowichan district has 84,000 people, and at 150 beds, you will start out the gate at 1.76 beds/1,000. This is lower than Comox, and the rest of Canada; this is not good. For comparison, Columbia has 1.7 beds/1,000, Mexico has 1.5, Canada has 2.5, U.S. has 2.8, Australia has 3.8, and Japan tops the charts at 13.1.

Comox has 2.2/1,000, but averaging 33 per cent Alternate Level of Care (ALC), the hospital is essentially functioning at 1.36 available acute care beds/1,000 at this very moment. There are patients on stretchers in the hallways during peak occupancy days; this is referred to as “hallway medicine”. It’s the lowest standard of care you can get, and it is rampant in all hospitals in Canada. According to an editorial appearing in the Medical Journal of Australia, by Peter A Cameron, professor at Monash University, “An overcrowded hospital should now be regarded as an unsafe hospital”. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

If you consider Cowichan’s growth rate was 4.5 per cent from 2011-2016, I calculated, regardless of the proportion of ALC patients, (which I would need an FOI request to find out), your hospital is projected to be at one bed/1,000 in roughly 13 years. Interestingly, Comox will also be at one bed/1,000 in 14 years regardless of the number of ALC patients. Our hospitals will have something in common with India, Philippines, Bolivia, and Honduras. After the stats come in from the 2020 census, this number may change.

I hope these stats help in your efforts for more acute care beds. Now’s the time to dialogue not only with Island Health, but also with the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District, your MLA, Sonia Furstenau, BC Green Party, and the Honourable Health Minister Adrian Dix, about your concerns, that is for sure!

Hopefully, Cowichan won’t suffer the same fate as the North Island hospitals, where the citizens are stuck with new hospitals, although beautiful, have far too few available acute care beds for the population they are supposed to serve.

Liza Schmalcel

Union Bay

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