THE BC Nurses’ Union is demanding Fraser Health take immediate action to eliminate understaffing and overcrowding in hospitals and not wait for the Health Ministry’s review in the spring.

The review was announced after nurses sounded the alarm about chaos in many emergency rooms. BCNU President Debra McPherson says little has changed in the past few weeks and patients are still being put in the halls and ambulance bays outside ERs.

The BCNU points to a disturbing case involving an elderly woman as a classic example of mismanagement by Fraser Health.

In the past year, 86-year-old Maria Oltoff has been taken to the emergency room 11 times.  Each time, after what usually turns into an extended hospital stay, she’s sent home.

Oltoff is a diabetic with dementia. She’s wandered off, had a stroke, pneumonia, infections, over-medication issues, numerous falls, and worst of all – a head injury when she fell down her stairs, which caused bleeding on the brain.

It could all have been prevented, says her daughter, if she’d been in long-term care. Renee Rosner says her mother has suffered tremendously and yet no one suggested Oltoff be put on a waiting list for a funded bed. Instead she was sent home with only the help of care aides for 1½ hours per day. “If she’d been in an extended care facility, she would have had a bed alarm, received proper medication and meals, lived without injury and stayed out of the hospital.”

BCNU President Debra McPherson says, “There are thousands of other seniors just like Mrs. Oltoff across BC. Emergency rooms and hospital wards are overflowing with seniors who shouldn’t be there. They need to be in long-term care facilities or receiving adequate nursing support at home.  Instead they inevitably return to the ER again and again.”

It costs BC taxpayers about $5,000 for each hospital stay. Using this measure, in one year, Oltoff has cost the healthcare system more than $350,000. Long-term care and / or appropriate nursing services at home cost much less and significantly reduce hospital congestion.