Hospitals across the province are operating over capacity and Victoria is no exception.
Data obtained by Black Press Media reveals that in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the Victoria General Hospital’s occupancy rate was at 106.1 per cent and the Royal Jubilee Hospital at 105.2 per cent – putting both in the red. The Saanich Peninsula Hospital was the most strained in the region at 110.2 per cent occupancy.
But the numbers also show that the overloaded Victoria facilities are far from isolated. The region’s hospitals are among the vast majority – 49 in total – of B.C. hospitals over capacity.
Occupancy rates were defined by the number of inpatient days per the number of acute care beds. Inpatient days are defined as the days a patient stays in hospital while undergoing treatment – while acute care beds are for patients receiving active but short-term treatment for a severe injury, illness, urgent medical condition or recovery from surgery.
Island Health provided a statement to Black Press Media, saying like other health authorities across the province, the region’s hospitals are becoming busier – due mainly to population growth and aging, as well as the “increasing number of medical interventions available.”
“Despite these challenges, all Island Health facilities continue to have capacity to respond to critical and emergency cases,” said Cheryl Bloxham, Island Health spokesperson. “We never turn patients away and our goal is always to deliver high-quality care in an environment of continuous improvement.”
Notably, occupancy rates in Greater Victoria hospitals dip – in most cases below 100 per cent – when the alternate level of care (ALC) patients are excluded. ALC patients are those who are not acutely ill but are occupying acute care hospital beds. In many cases, they’re patients that could be discharged if there was more adequate long-term care available.
Bloxham said the health authority is working on strategies to reduce the length of stay within the hospitals and improve access to community-based care – efforts that include “moving patients who don’t require acute care out of hospitals and into community settings.”
In November, home support care delivered by Beacon Community Services transitioned to Island Health, transferring 2,600 home support clients to the health authority. Island Health also pointed to the Ministry of Health’s investments in team-based urgent and primary care centres across the province – with the newest set to open in James Bay in 2020.
When asked about the diversion of ambulances – when emergency vehicles are re-routed to other facilities – Bloxham said there are a lot of factors taken into account when deciding which hospital a patient is taken to. Those factors include staffing levels and having the right staff onsite to treat a specific injury or illness, as well as the hospital’s area of expertise.
With files from Tyler Olsen.
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