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Alberta must show leadership in resolving ER crowding

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Prentice must show leadership on solving hospital crowding problem

Prentice must show leadership on solving hospital crowding problem

Jerry Orpe sits in his room in the South Calgary Health Campus on October 8, 2014. He is currently staying in the orthopaedic unit at the hospital while he and his family wait for a bed in one of their three preferred long term care facilities, facilities which can accommodate both his Alzheimer’s and his physically fit body.

Photograph by: Courtesy, Jill Rowland , Calgary Herald

Re: “Our health-care system is on verge of collapse,” Dr. Paul Parks, Opinion, Oct. 7. While we are pleased to hear Premier Jim Prentice’s comments with respect to his resolve to solve the problem of crowded ERs, we support Dr. Paul Parks’ position.

ER crowding is a result of hospital crowding. When hospital bed occupancy rates are 85 per cent, ER crowding simply does not exist. At 95 per cent bed occupancy rates, it is a given. Most Canadian urban hospitals frequently operate at over 100 per cent occupancy.

Hospitals are often overfilled because of patients who need to be in nursing homes or at home with appropriate home care support, and yet can’t access either. In many hospitals, these represent 20 per cent of occupied beds. The other issue is the lack of beds to meet the needs of an aging population. Canada ranks 33rd out of 34 OECD countries for bed availability.

Missing from the discourse has been clarity with respect to the consequences of waiting in the ER for a hospital bed. These patients suffer unnecessarily, have a higher rate of complications and die more frequently.

Hospitalized patients require greater access to nursing home beds and ER patients require better access to hospital ward beds.

Premier Prentice, the nation is looking to you for leadership. ER crowding is a threat to the public’s health and a national disgrace. Alberta, with its riches and innovation, must lead the way forward.

Alan Drummond, MD, Ottawa Alan Drummond is co-chair, public affairs, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians

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