‘Only the beginning’: Healthcare workers react to Surrey Memorial Hospital expansion

More than a week after emergency room doctors released a letter describing what they say is a crisis in their unit, we’re hearing from patients about their experience at the ER. Angela Bower has the story.

The expansion of Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) was announced Wednesday, and although some groups are touting it as a positive move, staffing levels still remain a concern.

“B.C.’s busiest ER, and the large and diverse population base in Fraser Health will benefit from increased services. However, expansion of services must come with recognition that without appropriate staffing and quality practice environments that enable care excellence, expansion of services alone may not achieve the change that is needed in B.C.’s busiest care centre,” a statement from the Association of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC, reads.

“Nurses and NPs (nurse practitioners) know the value in providing wide-ranging team-based, integrative care services. With these expansive sets of skills, nurses and NPs must be supported to work to full scope of practice across the system including acute-care settings, helping patients, and alleviating the burden in ERs across B.C.”

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The association adds nurses are keen on collaborating with those in health care to ensure there is better support for those working at one of the province’s busiest hospitals.

The BC Nurses’ Union echoes the association’s sentiment, saying while the news is welcome, more needs to be done in the province.

“Nurses at SMH have been calling for the government and Fraser Health to address the chronic congestion in the emergency department, the sharp increase of patient care needs, and a severe staff shortage that has left nurses, doctors and allied health care professionals burnt out and morally distressed,” a statement from the union reads.

“We are encouraged to see this much-needed attention paid to SMH, however it is critical that the government recognizes the severe impact the health-care crisis is having on patient care at several acute care emergency centres around the province.”

Meanwhile, the Surrey Board of Trade is calling the announcement “a win” but adds this is “only the beginning of what needs to be done.”

“Since our Surrey Health Care policy paper was released in early March, there have been vocal calls for investments in staffing and infrastructure to address decades of insufficient health care investments in what will be BC’s largest city,” President and CEO Anita Huberman said.

“It took great courage in two weeks of meetings to come to short-, medium- and long-term implementation plans. This is only the beginning of what needs to be done and is a step in the right direction for Surrey’s workforce.”

The city’s mayor is also chiming in on the announcement, saying she was surprised the province was so quick to act.

“Since the very beginning, the needs in our city for health care are extraordinary. We do need that assistance and we need to need it quickly,” Brenda Locke said.

“The need is great, the need is immediate, and we are hopeful that we will see more on the horizon,” she said.

She adds that she’s pleased with the action plan, but notes that this is just the first step.

Locks adds that the city will expedite any construction plans from the province to help get new infrastructure up and running as fast as possible.

“The minister has heard those challenges, and now it’s up to him to make sure that we get equity and funding in our region.”

After announcing the expansion Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said more details about the plan will be unveiled in the next five months.

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