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Dozens of operations cancelled due to bed blocking

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (File photograph).

A string of surgeries have been called off over the past year because of a shortage of beds at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

Fifty-four elective procedures had to be postponed from April 2020 through this month, some shortly before they were scheduled, due to a lack of places.

Numbers peaked this March, with 16 operations postponed as of last Sunday.

Judy Richardson, the chief of nursing for Bermuda Hospitals Board, attributed the delays to “increasing numbers of acutely ill elderly patients with multiple conditions and complications being admitted to inpatient units from the Emergency Department”.

The senior patients arrived with serious conditions ranging from a diagnosis of stroke to myocardial infarction, trauma and acute infections.

Ms Richardson added: “However, the biggest issue we face is not the numbers coming in, but the difficulties we have safely discharging our seniors back to the community.”

Details emerged after an older couple said a woman’s hip replacement that got put on hold in October was called off abruptly on March 17, ten minutes before they were to leave home.

Both times, KEMH cited a lack of hospital beds.

KEMH: Elective surgeries postponed over the past five years due to lack of bed space

Figures apply by fiscal year, from April 1 to March 31

2016-2017 = 33 (Highest was March with 12)

2017-2018 = 65 (Highest was February with 16)

2018-2019 = 36 (Highest was May with 13)

2019-2020 = 54 (Highest was April with 17)

2020-2021 = 54 (Highest is this month with 16 as of March 28)

The couple, both in their 70s, asked to remain unnamed for privacy reasons.

“My wife has been suffering with her hip for a long time, and it was determined a year ago that she needed this operation,” one told The Royal Gazette.

“Obviously with the pandemic, this became a bit of an issue.

“But the postponements aren’t unique to us. It’s been going on for some time.”

He said the doctor in line for the operation had a waiting list more of than 50 people.

“It’s not just a medical disservice to Bermuda and the public, but also to the medical profession, because their livelihood is compromised.

“She is in a lot of pain and has a hard time getting around, but has been rescheduled for April.”

He said the couple heard from medical sources the reason was “because so many residents have put their elderly relatives into the hospital”.

Ms Richardson emphasised that emergency or urgent surgeries were “never” cancelled

“Our goal is that every patient has the very best experience at BHB, and we regret when we fall short.”

She said that once senior patients were deemed ready for discharge, the hospital depended on “the support structures in the community – and these do not always come together as needed, something BHB cannot control”.

Ms Richardson said families often faced the difficulty finding 24-hour caregivers, a place in a nursing or rest home, and equipment needed to care for their loved ones.

She added: “The medical social workers collaborate with families and all of the community stakeholders that feed into this system which include Financial Assistance, Hospital Insurance Department, the Department of Health and government and private care homes.”

Elective surgeries on hold because of a lack of beds are tracked and reported each month to BHB’s board.

Ms Richardson said: “Elective surgeries are still very important, especially to patients who may be in pain, but if all our efforts to open up bed space fail then the last resort is to postpone them.

“Often, late notice on the postponement is because we have tried right up to the end to do the surgery.”

The couple who spoke with the Gazette said they had complained to the BHB board and were told they were “trying to address the issue”.

Ms Richardson said the hospital was committed to doing “everything possible” to avoid cancelling elective surgeries.

“While we cannot control all the issues that impact our discharges to the community, we do take responsibility for all that can be done internally and will continue to find ways to improve for our patients and Bermuda.”

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Published April 01, 2021 at 10:34 am (Updated April 01, 2021 at 10:34 am)

Dozens of operations cancelled due to bed blocking

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