Kamloops emergency room facing capacity challenges

By Tanya Cronin
January 4, 2018 - 4:59pm

KAMLOOPS — It's a harsh reality in this province, overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms. At Royal Inland Hospital thousands of patients flow through the doors of the ER every year, with the winter months being particularly hectic. Right now, the hospital is running at over capacity with a spike in flu cases contributing to the congestion. Patients accessing the emergency room should be prepared to wait. 

The ever-rising tide of patients arriving in the emergency department. Over the past several years, it has become the norm at hospitals in BC and right across the country.

"In the last couple of days, our inpatient census has started to rise, that's something we're aware of and working hard on," says Dr. Todd Ring, Royal Inland Hospital Chief of Staff.

At Royal Inland Hospital, the emergency room is running at over-capacity, the congestion not uncommon for this time of the year. The hospital's Chief of Staff says more flu cases is one of the main reasons for the winter surge.    

"There's lots of influenza outbreaks, lots of gastrointestinal illnesses, vomiting, diarrhea, those sorts of things that do end up putting extra pressures on the emergency department," says Dr. Ring.

The ER sees on average 200 patients a day, at its peak that number can spike to 240. Dr. Ring says while everyone who comes through the emergency room is cared for, not everyone needs to access the service. People need to do their part in preventing the spread of illness.

"Using hand sanitizer, staying home when you're sick, covering your cough, some basic kinds of things that can really prevent people from getting sick, getting your flu shot." 

Over the past three years, annual visits to Royal Inland Hospital's emergency department have jumped from 64,498 to more than 70,277 - 254 beds are offered and often occupied, but certain events at the hospital can further limit availability.

"There are extra pressures with our residential care beds now, if they get blocked by outbreaks it can make it difficult to get our in patients who needing to go to residential care out, which puts extra pressure on the hospital and then on the emergency room." 

There's no single way to drop wait times, but the hospital has been working to ensure patients are kept out of hallways, and care is a top priority.

"As a health care provider I never want to see my patients wait, never want them cared for in space that's not the best space for them, but we recognize limitations we're under and the staff works hard to ensure patients get the best care they can," says Dr. Ring. 

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