When Meredith McClurg started filming the line of beds in the emergency room hallways of Surrey Memorial Hospital, she had no idea how long the queue would stretch.
“I’ve seen it bad there before but nothing like that,” she said. “When I went around that corner I just couldn’t believe how many people were there.”
One of those patients was McClurg’s husband, who was rushed to the ER by ambulance and then left to be treated in a hallway for three days.
“I put four blankets on him,” she said. “He had his jacket on, he had his housecoat on and he was still cold. So you imagine these sick people. It was just a terrible situation.”
Some of the emergency overflow beds were warehousing admitted patients with nowhere else to go.
Other Fraser Health patients have had similar stories.
Earlier this month, an 86-year-old woman was left in a hallway at Peace Arch Hospital for three days before being moved to another ward.
“We realize that we’ve got to work together with our physicians and with our nurses in order to reduce our reliance on hallway beds,” Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said.
Fraser Health has stopped hallway care in other in-patient units. But the ER halls, equipped with oxygen and suction, are left to pick up the slack.
BC Nurses’ Union Vice-President Christine Sorensen said that makes little difference.
“I don’t think any hallway bed is acceptable for a patient in the province of B.C.,” she said.
Sorensen added that there are concerns that such conditions may end up doing more harm than good.
“Nurses are unable to wash their hands or physicians [are] unable to wash their hands, or patients don’t have access to a bathroom — that’s concerning. So we have issues around infection control,” she said.
McClurg said she shared the video to highlight the extent hallway medicine has grown. She hopes she never has to go through a similar experience herself.
“It’s just terrible and I dread the day I ever have to go in there,” she said.
— With files from John Hua