This month, like last month, and the month before that and every month since the two new North Island Hospitals opened last year, they have been overcapacity.

So on most days, staff at the Courtenay and Campbell hospitals struggle to find space to put as many as 30-plus extra patients, and the peak hospitalization season that coincides with the influenza season is just getting started.

Overcapacity at the brand new hospitals is not the only critical health care need in the Comox Valley — see the sidebar story on long-term care beds — but it is a serious issue for overburdened hospital workers. And it does not bode well for communities with growing populations, and for whom the capacities of these hospitals were expected to be adequate until 2025.

The new Comox Valley Hospital opened on Oct. 1, 2017 with staff and patients budgeted for 129 beds. It was almost immediately plagued with overcapacity.

Patient numbers soared as high as 178 within a few months, a situation that has continued throughout the year and led to predictable consequences.

Staff trying to care for up to 49 extra Comox Valley patients became stressed and exhausted. They took sick days to recover, which created daily staff shortages and exacerbated the workload problems, according to sources.

Overcapacity also plagues Campbell River Hospital, where the maximum 95 beds were opened quickly and still runs overcapacity.

And it is not good for patients housed in makeshift accommodations at both hospitals.

Dermot Kelly, Island Health executive director for the region, told Decafnation that all hospitals across BC have overcapacity issues, and that the two North Island Hospitals are following an official Overcapacity Protocol.

Kelly said the protocol includes a number of steps to mitigate the overcapacity problems, including “working to reduce the length of stay within hospital, and improve access to care in the community.”

Community access measures include “increasing Home Support hours, implementation of Overnight Care Teams, new specialized services for those with Mental Health and Substance Use Challenges and improved supports for those who are medically frail,” he said.

And, he said the hospitals are working to increase access to Adult Day Programs and respite services “to better support the needs of patients and caregivers in the community.”

And the Comox Valley Hospital recently opened an additional 17 beds, for a total of 146 open beds (of the hospital’s maximum capacity of 153) with increased staffing levels, and moved out 21 long-term care patients, most of them going to a renovated floor at the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital.

Read more at Decafnation.


George Le Masurier