COLUMN: Health-care woes not hospital’s fault

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is in crisis mode – bursting at the seams with patients being cared for in hallways and alcoves.

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is in crisis mode – bursting at the seams with patients being cared for in hallways and alcoves.

Adult patients are even taking up space in the pediatric unit designed for sick children.

And that has caused doctors and parents to speak out, saying it’s not right to put children at risk.

But what is the hospital to do? Does it turn away people in need, despite having a space available on the children’s floor? Thankfully, I don’t think our health-care crisis has come to that.

I can understand the fears parents might have if their child is sick and in the hospital. But what about the family members of an adult in need of medical help? Are the fears of children of a sick senior any less real than the fears of parents of a sick child?

The hospital is between a rock and a hard place and must make the tough decisions. If a person needs to be hospitalized and that means lying in a bed in a hallway or in a room in the pediatric unit, so be it.

And if a sick child is admitted and needs that space, move the adult to the next best available space.

I have a family member in NRGH who has been in hospital for weeks and started her stay in the hallway of the emergency department. She has moved three times since then. Each move proves to be a bit of a challenge, but the one factor that hasn’t changed is the care she receives from doctors, nurses and therapists.

Everyone has done their best to make her stay as comfortable as possible. Everyone is doing their best under trying circumstances of too many patients and not enough space to put them. Yes, that’s their job, but it’s a lot to ask and even more for the public to understand when it appears loved ones are suffering or being neglected.

What one has to understand is the principle of life over limb. A person arriving in the ER with chest pains will jump the line over someone who has been waiting for an hour with a broken arm.

Almost 10 years to this month, I wrote a column of my mother’s time in hospital and how she was suffering in pain and the nurses were not responding to the call bell for help.

It turns out a man down the hall had stopped breathing. At that moment, saving his life was more important than my mother’s pain. As hard as it was to see her in pain, it must have been just as much a relief for the family of the man to see the doctors and nurses rush to save him.

That is how our health-care system works. It’s all about priority and in my few experiences of being sick, if it is a true emergency, the system is there for you.

If the hospital is full, then perhaps the circumstances of receiving care is less than ideal. But you still get care.

We can’t blame the doctors and nurses, hospital management or even the health authority.

The blame lies with the provincial government for years of neglect of the health-care system.

I know the provincial Liberals are pouring in millions of dollars into a new emergency department and have improved NRGH through its dialysis and pediatric units.

But as our population continues to grow and age, how long will it take for us to outgrow those new units?

The problem lies in people taking up acute-care beds in hospital while waiting for a space to open in a long-term care facility. The central-Island, like many areas of the province, lacks affordable care facilities for seniors and those with debilitating illnesses.

That is the real crisis in health care, and it has been ignored by government for years.