Hospital wait time hits 11 hours in October
Patients waited on average about 11 hours for a hospital ward bed in October — almost double the time recorded a month earlier.
Some were forced to stay in corridors as staff at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital battled to cope with “sustained increases in demand”.
The Bermuda Hospitals Board has apologised to affected people and added that patient safety and care was its priority.
A spokeswoman said: “BHB is experiencing sustained increases in demand and has been working extremely hard to improve processes to keep wait times down in the emergency department.
“The increases in demand are mostly related to the known demographics in Bermuda — an ageing population, and increasing numbers of people with multiple chronic illnesses — high acuity patients.
“This means that the emergency physician has to spend more time with each patient and is also resulting in more people in emergency that need to be admitted.
“In October this year, 13 to 15 people were being admitted per day. This compares to 11 to 12 people per day last year.”
Over a seven-month period, the longest average time from arrival in the emergency room to departure was in April, when patients were there for about 290 minutes — almost five hours. The comparable figure for July was 213 minutes, or three-and-a-half hours.
Times from arrival to triage were between 16 and 21 minutes in the months from April to October.
The spokeswoman explained: “The increasing number of high-acuity patients attending emergency and the increasing number of people being admitted into hospital, creates longer emergency waits and longer waits for a bed on a ward.
“The average wait admission on to a ward in October was 11 hours, compared with six hours in September.
“Patients who are medically stable but waiting to be admitted to a general ward may wait in clinical areas, outside of rooms, if Emergency patients need these rooms for emergency care.
“They are not in a reception area, but they are in corridors of the emergency care area, or the FastTrack area close by, so that staff can continue to ensure they are safe.
“We apologise to our patients that this is necessary.”
The BHB made an extra 30 beds available in the general wing, but said it could not control some factors which would help to ease the pressure.
The spokeswoman said: “These would include a stronger community safety net for people medically ready for discharge, including more nursing home spaces and stronger community/home care; better management of chronic illnesses in the community setting; people exercising more and eating healthier; and higher flu vaccination rates.”
Mark Selley, the chairman of the Bermuda Healthcare Advocacy Group, agreed that members of the public needed to shoulder some of the responsibility.
He said: “A lot of senior people have managed to set a standard for healthcare; the way things used to be; they wouldn’t get chronically ill; they were mindful of good health.
“It’s the young people that are on this mission of destruction — diabetes, chronic overweight ... all these things lead to general bad health.”
Mr Selley added that the public must “get on board”.
He said: “If they don’t have a general physician, they need to get one so they can have access to somebody that can monitor their health rather than just turning up at the hospital when there is an issue.”
A BHB winter-planning team has looked at how to cope in case of surges in demand over winter, when a higher number of flu and respiratory illnesses increases admissions.
The spokeswoman said that plans included identification of available space and supplies, as well as a review of staff availability and schedules in the event of a surge.
She added that the hospital also had “escalation protocols in place with defined triggers to ensure a timely response”.
The BHB also announced a temporary reduction in weekday hours at the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre between December 16 and January 31.
The St David’s medical centre will be open from 6pm to 10pm, instead of from 4pm to midnight.
The spokeswoman said that X-ray services would also be unavailable during the week for the same period.
Weekend hours and service will stay the same and the centre will be opened if the Causeway has to be closed.
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