B.C.’s health minister pushes back on Surrey Memorial Hospital ER ‘crisis’

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is pushing back against claims that Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) is in “crisis.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Dix says the NDP is trying to undo years of neglect under the previous Liberal government.

“Fraser Health was particularly badly treated by the previous government, it was. The idea that you would do less MRIs in Fraser Health with 800,000 more people than in Vancouver Coastal Health just showed a secondary priority, and so we’ve changed that,” he said.

Dix’s comments come after doctors in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room issued a scathing letter Monday describing what they’re calling a “crisis” at the facility.

Released in response to the Doctors of BC Section of Emergency Medicine news last week, the physicians, who have not included their names, say they are “compelled to inform the public of the unsafe conditions that have come to exist in our hospital, and what has been told to the community is incomplete.”

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The group says the province’s minister of health, Adrian Dix, is “correct” in his previous characterization that health conditions in the province are challenging, but they say an important point is missing — “patients are dying preventable deaths at SMH.”

Dix continued Wednesday, suggesting the healthcare system is doing the best it can.

“What you’re seeing is a health care system that’s delivering way more surgeries, way more diagnostic exams, way more primary care visits, way more supports for people in long-term care, [with] additional long-term care beds in Surrey in the last six months. All of those things, and a very significant increase in demand, is [what] we’re responding to,” he said.

Dix says he understands why emergency room doctors released the letter but says the NDP is doing what it can to fix things — including the new hospital in Cloverdale.

“We’re expecting next month we’ll be announcing who’s building it. So, we’ll have a competitive bidding process. After that, the early works will start, [with the hospital] substantially complete in 2026 and open in 2027.”

On Wednesday, the group representing physicians in B.C. says it’s not surprising emergency room doctors at SMH felt they had no choice but to write an open letter, detailing a “crisis” at the facility.

Dr. Gord McInnes, co-president of the Section of Emergency Medicine within Doctors of BC, says people seeing problems stemming from a lack of resources isn’t just a “big city problem,” adding other hospitals are also facing challenges.

“I can’t emphasize enough the fact that this is a pervasive problem,” he said.

“It’s Surrey, it’s Langley, it’s Ducan, it’s Naniamo — I mean, the list goes on and on. It’s smaller emergency departments that are not getting the media attention right now in the sense that, you know, many of us that work in larger centres are also staffing places like 100 Mile, Oliver, Merritt, some are providing coverage as far north as Fort Nelson.”

With files from OMNI News

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