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High rates of illness sent ER waiting times soaring in January

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Patient waiting times were up more than fourfold during January in the hospital’s emergency department as the island contended with a higher rate of illness, the health minister told MPs yesterday.

Kim Wilson said King Edward VII Memorial Hospital saw 2,766 emergency patients that month — and that while the average time spent in emergency was just below four hours per patient, it averaged 17 hours and 38 minutes before patients were admitted to a ward in January.

She said that the availability of beds was “greatly” affected by families picking up patients in time for their 11am discharge from the hospital.

Ms Wilson spoke in the House of Assembly to address “stories circulating in the community” on capacity at the hospital.

During peak occupancy at KEMH, patients needing a hospital bed and who have been admitted to the emergency department must wait until acute-care patients cleared to go home are able to leave the ward and their room is cleaned.

“This can cause longer waits for people with minor illnesses or injuries, or the need to use areas outside of patient rooms to ensure care is delivered for those whose care needs cannot wait,” she said.

The average stay in acute care was 11.3 days during January, compared with 9.4 days in December and 8.2 days in February.

Ms Wilson said that the occupancy figures were affected by the higher rate of respiratory illness in winter.

The hospital typically runs at 92 per cent capacity.

Ms Wilson said there were more than 960 discharges recorded from the hospital’s three acute-care units between November 2022 and February 2023.

The three wards house a total of 90 beds.

She said that more than 60 per cent of patients discharged met the Bermuda Hospitals Board goal of getting out in seven days or fewer, and nearly 90 per cent were discharged within two weeks in hospital.

Longer stays ranged from two to three weeks for 7.6 per cent of patients, three to four weeks for 2 per cent and more than one month for 4.8 per cent of patients.

Ms Wilson said that fewer beds were available when discharged patients had to wait beyond the target time of 11am to get picked up by their families.

Elective surgeries were also affected, she said — but just 0.6 per cent of planned surgeries, or 37 cases, had to be postponed between April 2022 and January 2023 owing to a lack of beds in either the intensive care unit or acute-care wards.

In that same period, 142 surgeries were cancelled by patients, and 84 were unable to proceed because the patients were found unfit for surgery.

To read the minister’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published March 14, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated March 14, 2023 at 8:18 am)

High rates of illness sent ER waiting times soaring in January

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