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‘Not acceptable’: UBC medical students voice emergency room concerns

Two University of British Columbia medical students are speaking out for their future, their fellow community members and potential patients.

UBC medical students Sandra Smiley and Christina Schwarz spoke with Global News regarding the current state of B.C.’s health-care system — especially regarding emergency health departments.

“Things are getting worse rather than getting better in emergency departments as we speak,” Sandra Smiley said.

“The system as (it) is, is not acceptable to patients or staff,” Schwarz said. “The further we get into our studies, the harder it’s going to get until we are the physicians that have to make those really tough decisions because our system is failing patients.”

The failure, the students say, is attributed to overcrowding, understaffing and violence in B.C. emergency departments.


Click to play video: 'Patient spends 9 days in Vancouver Island hospital hallway'


Patient spends 9 days in Vancouver Island hospital hallway


The pair is part of the UBC medicine PAC whose recent paper, Enough Waiting: A Call to Resuscitate BC Emergency Departments, says the median time that in-patients are kept in emergency departments is about 17.5 hours.

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“I’ve seen people boarded in the emergency department for hours, days sometimes,” Smiley said.


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“When people have to suffer through these wait times, they lose faith in the system,” Schwarz added.

The students met with the province earlier this month and brought forward a list of remedies that include increased capacity for primary care, and better long-term care and supportive housing options to reduce hospital stays.

“I think they’ve got great suggestions and we will look at anything they bring forward as they are seeing the front line of the health-care system

Saskatoon City Hospital emergency room closure raises red flags for health-care providers

Saskatoon City Hospital saw an emergency room closure on Tuesday, which is raising alarm bells for health-care workers across the province.

Brittany Ellis, an emergency physician in Saskatoon, said emergency physicians have been shouting for many months about the challenges they’re facing.

“This is increased acuity, increased volumes, looking back 15 per cent year on year since 2020 in Saskatoon,” Ellis said.


Click to play video: 'Acute care plan expected to put health-care system ‘in a better place’, SHA CEO says'


Acute care plan expected to put health-care system ‘in a better place’, SHA CEO says


She said patients are getting sicker and presenting later.

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Ellis says this is a complex problem, noting that emergency rooms are a place patients go when there’s nowhere else to go, but it’s also a space where people go if they are very sick.

“Closures are nothing new, they’ve been happening in rural Saskatchewan for a very long time now, but this is the first one in my time, in five years here, that it’s happened in Saskatoon.”

The provincial NDP reported in mid-December 2023 that obstetrical services across the province were disrupted for a total of 98 days in hospitals between January and August of last year.

Ellis said it was predictable that these conditions were going to get worse, pointing to an increasingly aging population.

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“So there’s been a bit of a lack of planning and dealing with that initially.”


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Quebec doctors say emergency room overcrowding is putting patient health at risk

MONTREAL — Overcrowding in Quebec hospitals is “out of control” and putting the lives of patients at risk, says a group representing chief doctors in the province’s emergency departments.

MONTREAL — Overcrowding in Quebec hospitals is “out of control” and putting the lives of patients at risk, says a group representing chief doctors in the province’s emergency departments.

ER occupancy rates are among the highest ever recorded in the province, said Dr. Sophie Gosselin, a spokeswoman for Regroupement des chefs d’urgence du Québec. A lack of co-ordination and a shortage of resources have left many ERs caring for patients who should be moved to hospital wards, she added.

“We are saying we can’t let things get any worse, it’s going to be really dangerous,” Gosselin said in an interview Monday.

On Friday, less than two weeks after officials confirmed they were investigating two deaths at a Montreal-area ER, her group sent a letter to Health Minister Christian Dubé warning that the situation in Quebec’s emergency rooms is “out of control.”

Those high-profile deaths are just the tip of the iceberg, Dr. Marie-Maud Couture, the group’s president, wrote to Dubé. “Overcrowding in the emergency department leads to daily mortality.”

A spokesman for Quebec’s health minister did not respond to a request for comment.

Health data website Index Santé said the average emergency department occupancy in Quebec on Monday afternoon was 134 per cent; that figure hasn’t been below 100 per cent since Nov. 12. Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital was the most crowded, at 217 per cent occupancy, while the Hôtel-Dieu de Sorel northeast of Montreal was at 200 per cent.

According to provincial government data, 32 per cent of ER patients spent more than 24 hours waiting on a stretcher in the seven days leading up to Dec. 11, the most

South Okanagan General Hospital emergency room closed again


For the third time in a week, Interior Health is warning of a “temporary service interruption” at South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver.


“Limited physician availability” will close the hospital’s emergency department – which is normally open 24 hours a day – from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, according to the health authority.


Patients seeking emergency services are being directed to Penticton Regional Hospital – about 40 minutes away – during the closure.


It’s the third time a lack of staff has closed the emergency room at SOGH in the last week.


The department was also closed overnight last Saturday into Sunday morning, and it closed again overnight on Wednesday into Thursday.


Limited physician availability was the reason cited on those occasions as well.


In recent weeks, the provincial government has touted its efforts to hire new health care workers, with Health Minister Adrian Dix claiming Tuesday that more than 5,200 “net new” nurses had been hired since January, along with 524 new international medical graduates that have registered and begun working in B.C.


On the ground, however, staffing clearly remains a challenge. South Okanagan General Hospital was one of at least three facilities in Interior Health to close due to lack of staff over the Thanksgiving long weekend, and health-care facilities continue to see reduced hours and unexpected closures in other health authorities, as well. 


In Merritt, Mayor Michael Goetz has threatened to withhold health-care payments to the province over repeated closures of the emergency department at Nicola Valley Hospital, and is urging other mayors to do the same. 


Although Goetz says he has the ear of the health minister and other provincial officials, he told CTV News this week the province has not provided a plan

Renovations for waiting room of Halifax’s largest emergency department set to begin – Halifax

The QEII Health Sciences Centre’s emergency department is undergoing renovations as part of the hospital’s ongoing redevelopment project.

In a release Tuesday morning, the Nova Scotia Health Authority said patients and visitors to the Halifax Infirmary emergency department will notice construction taking place in the waiting room Wednesday.

“The upgrades will improve care by providing a better experience for both patients and staff,” the release said.

The emergency room renovations will last for about five weeks, and during that time, a second emergency department patient advocate will be assigned to the emergency room to support patients and staff.

“We are working hard to minimize the impact of construction and ensure safety, comfort and privacy for those in the waiting room,” the release said.

According to NSHA spokesperson Brendan Elliott, the renovations will entail relocating medical gas and steam lines, allowing the hospital to construct an inpatient acute care tower that was previously announced as part of the redevelopment.

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“Steam lines are crucial for heating the hospital so this work needs to be completed before winter,” Elliott noted.

Long-awaited project

The QEII redevelopment project has been in the works for years. First announced by the former Liberal government in 2016, the project was initially supposed to cost $2 billion.

In December 2022, Tim Houston’s Progressive Conservative government announced it was changing the scope of the project, and that it would cost substantially more, but exactly how much was not said.

An auditor general’s report released in April said the province was falling behind on the long-awaited project.

In May, the province said it would soon break ground after a deal was signed

Emergency room doctors beg for help treating children with mental health illnesses

Three influential groups of pediatricians and emergency medicine providers are pleading for more support and resources as the number of children and teenagers with mental health concerns overwhelm emergency departments nationwide.

“The scope of this problem is really great,” said Dr. Mohsen Saidinejad, a professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But our ability to solve it is not there.”

Saidinejad is the lead author of a joint policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Emergency Nurses Association released Wednesday. The groups are calling for local communities to increase access to mental health services before emergency care is needed.

Every year, approximately half a million children with mental or behavioral health conditions are evaluated in emergency departments, according to the AAP. That number increased over the past decade, experts said.

Dr. Willough Jenkins, medical director of emergency and consultation liaison psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, is on the front line of the surge.

Silhouette of Little girl sitting on bed
Every year, about half a million children with mental or behavioral health conditions are seen in emergency rooms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.Annie Otzen / Getty Images

She said that the number of kids seeking psychiatric emergency care in her ER has grown from approximately 30 a month in recent years to 30 a day.

“The volume is astronomical, and I don’t know that people fully understand how many people are struggling,” said Jenkins, who was not involved with the new policy statement.

Jenkins said that children as young as six are coming in, often talking about suicide.

“This crisis is only getting worse,” she said. “It’s not getting better.”

A nationwide mental health problem

The call for help

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