‘I’m worried about our system’: B.C. mom recounts hours-long hospital wait with toddler

Despite an open letter, calls from parents, and a raging cold and flu season – Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province won’t see a return to mask mandates. Liza Yuzda has the latest.

As hospitals across the country continue to be overwhelmed amid a spike in virus-related illnesses, a Burnaby mom says she experienced first-hand just how serious the situation is.

Waits at BC Children’s Hospital surpassed 10 hours Wednesday morning, highlighting a trend that’s been reported in other Canadian jurisdictions, as more kids get sick.

But the waits extend to other Metro Vancouver hospitals too, like Burnaby Hospital, where Rachel Thexton says she took her child late Tuesday with the hopes of seeing a doctor.

“It takes a lot for me to take a child to the ER, I know the system is maxxed. But I have a young boy at home with pneumonia — he’s five. So my two-year-old, as her symptoms got worse in the last five days, I decided it was time to take her in,” Thexton told CityNews Wednesday.

She says her daughter had a fever that wouldn’t drop, even with over-the-counter medication, as well as a cough and congestion “so bad that she was getting a rash and blisters around her nose and face.”

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Thexton says she called both her family doctor and another pediatrician, who both suggested she take her toddler to the ER.

“We first went to the [BC] Children’s Hospital, the lineup was out the door. This was at about 9:45 p.m. [Tuesday]. Even to register for triage the lineup was out the door. So we decided to try Burnaby Hospital, because we live in Burnaby,” Thexton explained.

She says they were able to register “quite quickly” and told that there would be “quite a wait but that they do prioritize children in more serious cases.”

But time dragged on. Thexton says her family was eventually taken to another room, where they sat and waited again.

“No one came to see us, no one took her temperature, checked on her, checked her vitals, asked any questions about her until about 4 a.m., at which point she was weighed, and then the nurse left again,” the mother recalled, adding her daughter grew more exhausted as time dragged on.

Overall, Thexton says her family waited just over six hours before deciding they had to leave. They did not see a doctor.

While the mother notes her daughter is feeling a little better, her child continues to be sick. She says she’s reached out to her doctor to arrange treatment.

“I’m worried about our system,” the Burnaby mom said. “I’m always one to defend our health system, I always say how fantastic it is and how fortunate we are to have it. At this point in time, I have never seen our system the way that it is. It seems as though it is actually crumbling beneath us.”

Most of all, Thexton says she’s worried about the well being of B.C.’s children, adding as things stand, there aren’t enough resources to treat them if they fall ill.

“I was angry, I was frustrated. I feel a lot of empathy for the health care workers. I know that they are overworked, they’re exhausted, I believe they’re underpaid. But I think communication would be good. No one communicated with us. If someone had come in and said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s going to be another two hours … I’m just letting you know,’ any type of communication would have meant a lot to us because then we would have at least known what to expect,” she said.

In an update Wednesday on the respiratory illness situation in B.C., Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed extended waits at the province’s hospitals.

The BC Children's Hospital emergency department sign on the outside of the building

BC Children’s Hospital emergency department in Vancouver. (CityNews Image)

He says a dedicated provincial pediatric table is being developed, which he explains will coordinate pediatric resources and “rapidly respond to increased demand across the province.”

He notes emergency department visits have increased, on average, from September and October. However, Dix says a task group is implementing processes to “improve emergency department triage purposes,” adding more staff are being hired to “connect patients with care in the community to avoid unnecessary hospital stays or shorten emergency department length of stay.”

“I know this is a challenge that we face a lot and it’s so hard to know with young children, particularly,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said of child illnesses coupled with extended hospital wait times.

“I would encourage people to talk to their primary-care provider, to call 8-1-1, where they can get advice as well, and yes, when you do go to emergency departments, some of them are very busy. But if you’re are concerned about your child, don’t put off that visit if you need to go to the emergency department. You will be seen, you will be triaged, and we will all need to be patient. But we know that it is important to get that care if you need it.”

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Dix echoes that point, adding the province is doing what it can to address triage and capacity issues.

But solutions need to come sooner than later, Thexton says, adding the situation cannot remain the same.

“It’s frustrating and you want to scream and you want to cry, but you don’t know where to direct that because you know the people there, on the ground working aren’t to blame,” she told CityNews, adding her family’s experience Tuesday into Wednesday left her feeling helpless.

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