Waiting for death

NEWS_Waiting for death

Dark week for New Westminster healthcare alludes to larger issue

By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor


Fraser Health came under scrutiny this week when a story emerged about a New Westminster woman passing away in the waiting room of the Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH). She had been waiting for a bed to open up.

Surjit Kaur, a 73-year-old woman, had her treatment delayed on March 14. After battling a difficult bladder infection and an unsuccessful dosage of antibiotics, Kaur was taken to the hospital by her family. Despite suffering excessive vomiting and diarrhea for the previous week, the staff at RCH told Kaur’s family that they could not check on vitals or administer any treatments until Kaur could be moved to a hospital bed. All the beds were full at the time. Kaur’s health deteriorated significantly in the hours she spent in the hospital waiting room in a wheelchair. By the time her condition was noticed by healthcare professionals and she was placed in a bed, she was in the final 20 minutes of her life.

Fraser Health stated to Global News that they “…have been working closely with the family, including arranging meetings with clinical staff and administration. We have reviewed the patient’s chart and have shared all of the information related to her care with the family. Unfortunately, this woman was very ill. It is hard to lose a loved one. We are continuing to work with the family to support them through their loss.”

Fraser Health and provincial healthcare was criticized by New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy.

“There has been one crisis after another, in one emergency room after another in Fraser Health. We’ve raised this issue repeatedly in the legislature. It’s long overdue that the government stepped in and took responsibility,” Darcy said to Global News.

Long hospital wait times are a common occurrence in BC hospitals. While wait times in hospitals like Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital are usually less than half an hour, many hospitals have an average wait time of multiple hours, with Richmond General Hospital having an average wait time of 3.5 hours, according to Emergency Wait Times. No data could be found on the average wait time of Royal Columbian patients.

Kaur’s death is only the most recent case in a slew of tragedies that may have been prevented with quicker or more thorough attention to these patients. Since September 2016, there has been three cases of alleged negligence in hospitals that have yielded tragic results. While these patients were seen, they were sent home with shots or prescriptions, and met their demise within days of their visit.

Kaur’s niece, Amarjit Minhas, is a nurse herself, and lamented the state of the waiting and emergency room.

“I’m just so sad that I work in a system where this kind of thing can happen. I worked in the ER 30 years ago, and things were bad then and there have been some improvement, but things are still as bad,” said Minhas to Global News.

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