'I would have no hesitation of going to Surrey Memorial': Fraser Health CEO

WATCH: The chief executive officer of the Fraser Health Authority says she would not hesitate to go to Surrey Memorial Hospital in an emergency, despite staffing concerns at the hospital.

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, said the health authority knows there are challenges being faced by staff and patients in the system but said if she found herself in need of health care she would not hesitate to go to Surrey Memorial or other Fraser Health facilities.

Emergency room doctors at Surrey Memorial Hospital have been speaking out about the state of the emergency room, the service being provided to patients and the pressures being placed on staff.

Dr. Urbain Ip, now a clinical assistant professor at UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine and the former medical director at Surrey Memorial, told Global News Tuesday he wouldn’t send his own family members to the facility.

Ip said patients could wait 48 to 72 hours before getting proper care due to a shortage of hospitalists — doctors who admit patients to the hospital’s wards.

“We do make sure that we’re looking after more serious, more urgent needs,” Lee said, “and I know that when those concerns come to the emergency family, the emergency department, we ensure that urgent, emergent issues are dealt with.

“Everybody is doing their best to ensure they are doing their best care for patients that are in front of them.”

Global News obtained a copy of the notes that ER doctors at Surrey Memorial Hospital were adding to patient charts amid congestion and delay, and which allegedly led to some facing investigation.

IP alleged Fraser Health had actively worked to prevent doctors from going public with concerns.

“We tried to design a poster to put in the waiting room to tell patients we are having resource problems, so today there might be delays seeing you but if you have a heart attack, you have a really critical illness, but those minor things you might have to have a longer delay,” he said.

“Fraser Health, they didn’t want us to have that, they pulled the poster down.”

Ip’s comments followed an open letter from doctors at the hospital warning of “unsafe conditions” amid emergency room congestion and a shortage of admitting hospitalists.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday that the province has tabled a contract offer to hospitalists, and that negotiations were ongoing in a bid to address their concerns and reach a deal.

Lee has denied that patients died or suffered negative outcomes due to delays in care but she did say some cases are being given a second look.

“There are some questions about some of the areas and we are reopening to make sure there are no questions about deaths and adverse events.”

B.C. Premier David Eby insisted Wednesday that the issue remained “critically important” to his government.

“Coming out of the pandemic we’ve seen huge strains in our hospital system. It’s not just in Surrey, it’s not just in B.C. — in fact, it’s across Canada,” he said.

“Here in B.C. we are making some traction on it, we are leading the country on the recruitment and credential recognition of internationally-trained nurses, for example. We need to get more bodies into our hospitals to provide that support, more skilled workers, and this is one key short-term response.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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