A Surrey woman and retired nurse has come forward with a story about the “deplorable” conditions at Surrey Memorial Hospital, including a degrading 60-hour wait in the emergency room for her 89-year-old mother.
Sherry Hunter-Yzerman’s experience comes as doctors at the hospital sound the alarm about what they say are “crisis” conditions including an overwhelmed emergency department and a shortage of doctors to admit patients into wards.
Hunter-Yzerman’s mother Veronica was taken to hospital on May 17 suffering from a severe gastrointestinal illness including chronic diarrhea.
She said the facility was so short staffed she was left to take her mother repeatedly to the washroom and to clean her up afterward.
“I wasn’t offered a towel, a washcloth, pads, nothing I was cleaning my mother in the public washroom,” she said. “If it was an infection, which it turned out to be, that is highly transmissible to other patients.”
Hunter-Yzerman said her mother was sent home that day with a prescription and orders to see her doctor if her situation didn’t improve over the next week.
But her condition deteriorated the next day and she was back at Surrey Memorial Hospital again — where this time she waited 60 hours before being admitted to a ward.
“When she was in emergency, there was absolutely no communication, you barely see the same person twice, nobody follows through,” she said. “Every shift I was asked to give her meds … and it was never followed through for days. The breaking point came on Sunday, when I tried to find out who her nurse was because she was in pain, and people just walked away and said, ‘I don’t know.'”
Veronica was ultimately diagnosed with a salmonella poisoning, and spent 10 days in the hospital.
Hunter-Yzerman said the doctors and nurses were doing what they could, but were overwhelmed and run off their feet. She alleged that she even spoke with managers at the hospital who urged her to go public with her story.
She ended up spending 14 to 16 hours per day at the hospital caring for her mother, out of fear no one else would do it, she said.
“It got to the point that I said please, just show me where the supplies are. I was putting her on and off the commode, going down to the soiled utility room and emptying the commode just to help,” she said.
“All I wanted was basic care, not preferential, just basic. There is nobody there. She wasn’t washed. Nobody came to offer to wash, change her gown. They said she needed to be taking fluids and to eat. Nobody came with fluids.”
On Tuesday, veteran emergency room doctor and former Surrey Memorial medical director Dr. Urbain Ip told Global News the facility had reached “boiling point,” and that people were regularly waiting 48-72 hours to be admitted.
Ip said the problems had gotten so bad doctors were appending notes to patient charts noting the delays and putting up posters to inform the public, but were shut down in both cases by Fraser Health administrators.
The week prior, doctors at the hospital penned an open letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix warning of “unsafe conditions” and highlighting the shortage of admitting doctors and beds.
Speaking with Global’s Focus BC, Fraser Health CEO Victoria Lee acknowledged the hospital and the health region were facing challenges, including a shortage of beds, delays, congestion and outflow issues from the emergency department.
But she said the health authority had added 50 beds to the hospital along with another 100 beds in long-term care and was working on international recruitment.
“Of course there is challenges we are faced with in B.C., in Fraser Health, but if I found myself in need of emergency care, I would not hesitate to go to Surrey Memorial Hospital or other Fraser Health or B.C. hospitals,” she said. “I know my colleagues, hospitalists or others, everybody is trying to do the best they can to provide the best care they can.”
Veronica has since been discharged and is recovering at home under the care of her daughter. But the experience has left its mark on the 89-year-old.
“Please. I don’t ever want to go back. I’ve got to stay home,” she told Global News.
Hunter-Yzerman said she hopes telling her story will help prevent other families from going through what she did.
“God help you if you go to Surrey hospital and you don’t have an advocate or a family member,” she said. “It’s a horror show.”
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