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Emergency patients forced to wait more than 27 hours for bed

Beds in the emergency room of the acute care wing of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (File photograph)

Patients attending the emergency department at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital were left waiting for an average of more than 27 hours for an inpatient bed one day last week, The Royal Gazette has learnt.

The peak figure was hit on April 17, with the bed waiting period from April 10 to 23 averaging 14.8 hours.

On five days in that cycle, people were left without a bed for more than 20 hours on average.

Daily admissions to the hospital requiring a bed were up nearly a third in the two week period, jumping from 10 to 13, with a peak of 18 reached last Friday.

The Bermuda Hospitals Board apologised for the situation and acknowledged bed waiting times are “much higher” than they would like.

Delays in discharging patients have been cited as an important factor in bed delays.

A BHB spokeswoman said: “We have continued to experience a high number of inpatients in hospital, and as will be seen from our data over the last two weeks there have continued to be a high number of admissions.

“Our average daily admissions are usually about ten, and over the last two weeks the average was 13, with a peak of 18 on April 21.

“This high level of admissions has an impact on people waiting for an inpatient bed in emergency especially if there any discharge delays as well.

“Unfortunately, last week, the wait time for a bed was much higher than we want it to be. We are very sorry to all those who have been impacted.

“As we have noted beforehand, we have contingency plans when this happens with an inpatient doctor and nurse coming to emergency to ensure these patients get safe care.

“Our goal, however, is to transfer patients out of emergency as soon as possible. It is better for the running of emergency department, and better for the patients.

“Given the interest in these figures, we have decided to share a snapshot of activity across KEMH every two weeks so that our data is available to all.

“As Bermuda’s only hospital and only emergency department we believe that sharing performance data regularly will mean the community is better informed about activity at KEMH, from emergency through to outpatient visits and surgical cases.

“We will continue to update the more detailed statistics annually on our website, but this snapshot will give a more immediate sense of how we are performing in key areas that impact a large number of people.”

Earlier in the month BHB said that “bed-blocking”, patients not leaving before 11am, was a major cause of extra pressure on the hospital.

BHB warned in March that it will struggle to maintain its facilities or to pay a basic cost-of-living increase to its staff because government funding is not keeping up with medical inflation.

The BHB, which is $16 million short of the funds promised to it by the Government in 2019, said that even if the Government made good the shortfall, failures to increase the spending cap meant that it had received a single 1 per cent increase in five years.

It emerged this year that the BHB had been short-changed by up to $31.6 million in funding over the past four years.

The BHB and the Government agreed in 2019 that it would receive an annual block grant of $322 million – made up of a government grant, Mutual Reinsurance Fund transfers and taxpayer subsidies – but that financial commitment was never paid in full, resulting in a shortfall.

David Burt acknowledged in his Budget address that the hospital had to run on an overdraft, and said the Cabinet had approved a $15 million payment to the BHB in the current year and would need to increase funding in the Budget for 2023-24.

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Published April 28, 2023 at 8:01 pm (Updated April 28, 2023 at 8:01 pm)

Emergency patients forced to wait more than 27 hours for bed

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