Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) is struggling to meet a provincial standard for the time it takes to admit emergency patients, according to a Fraser Health Authority report card.
While Fraser Health would like to see 55 per cent of emergency patients admitted to hospital within 10 hours, only 36.4 per cent of such patients at ARH are admitted during that time period.
Those numbers are reflective of difficulties across the region served by the health authority, with just 39.1 per cent of all Fraser Health emergency patients meeting what administrators call the “10-hour rule.” In Mission the number is even lower, at 30.1 per cent.
While Shallen Letwin, the executive director for the Mission and Abbotsford hospitals, said first contact with physicians usually takes place an hour or two after entering the emergency room, the report card numbers show that admission often takes much longer for those who require a hospital stay.
The regionwide Fraser Health report card stated: “Our emergency departments are becoming increasingly overcrowded due to increasing patient volumes, and recent results at the site level show that most hospitals are still performing below the set targets.”
Letwin said administrators are aware of the situation and are working to speed up the process, an effort he said is closely related to reducing the length of stay for patients.
“There are limits to how many beds and locations a hospital has so therefore we need to make the best use of those locations through these processes,” he said. “For Abbotsford and Mission in the 30ish [per cent] range, there is obviously an improvement we’re looking at to try and advance [patients’] journeys a lot sooner.”
He said administrators are also looking to improve the resources available in the communities so that patients who can be treated outside of hospital don’t need to be admitted to a bed.
Asked if there’s enough room in the hospitals in Mission and Abbotsford, Letwin said: “There’s enough room if we continue to be very good with our length of stay and the admission rate. The inflow and outflow have to be connected and we’ve done a lot of work at connecting that.”
With an average stay length of 7.1 days reported in ARH’s latest report card, the hospital is nearly a full day over the Fraser Health target of 6.3 days. Between April and November of 2014, Abbotsford also had 49 patients staying longer than 30 days.
Similarly, the emergency patient experience most recently measured last spring got a substandard grade of 73 per cent, below both the 90 per cent target and the 79 per cent Fraser Health average.
“We are developing processes to ensure the patient-care journey is efficient, safe and expeditious,” Letwin said.
But the solution isn’t simply to increase the amount of staff in the hospitals.
Letwin said staffing levels can impact the speed at which patients are admitted at busy times, and the hospital brings in more personnel during busy times. At the same time, he said staffing levels aren’t a key driver of reducing lengths of stay.