Bad review of Burnaby Hospital already out of date: doctor

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A damning review of Burnaby Hospital by the Ministry of Health is already outdated, says the hospital's former medical coordinator.

The provincially-ordered review of the Fraser Health Authority, released last week, found Burnaby had the second-worst rate of nursing-sensitive adverse events – such as infections, bed sores and fractures in hospital – in Canada for two straight years.

Dr. David Jones served as the head of medical staff at Burnaby Hospital from 2008 to June 2014. He said the statistics the province used, from 2010 to 2012, are "quite out of date."

The performance of the hospital has improved significantly since then, Jones stressed.

"We haven't reached perfection by any means. Some of it relates to the structure of the hospital and how out of date it is. But the statistics … show the tremendous improvement that's happened over the last couple of years."

The seven-month review of Fraser Health was ordered largely in response to its inability to avoid successive budget overruns. It determined that hospital emergency rooms are overused by non-urgent cases which would be better seen by family doctors or at community care facilities. Health Minister Terry Lake announced the health authority will get an additional $60 million over two years to help open up more community care beds, among other initiatives.

Burnaby-Deer Lake NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan criticized the ministry for laying blame at Fraser Health when it is moves by the Liberal government, she said, which caused many of the current problems.

When the Liberals were first elected in 2001, they promised to build 5,000 more long-term care beds to help free up acute care beds, but that hasn't happened, Corrigan said adding, in fact, hundreds of such beds have been lost since then.

There have also been cuts and a lack of investment to community health clinics, home care, and day programs for seniors, she said.

"I think it's interesting that over the last several years the number of managers has gone up by 20 per cent," she said.

"I remember the doctors at Burnaby Hospital three to four years ago saying this  centralized approach was going to take away local input and was not going to be good for patient care. And now this report says 'oops, it's not working the way we thought it was going to.'"

Corrigan noted that some of the issues faced by Burnaby Hospital are related to the aging facility and its outdated design which was identified as being one of the factors in the C. difficile outbreaks linked to dozens of deaths in recent years.

But the hospital was identified as needing to be replaced as far back as 2001.

"Frankly, I'm incensed at this report and the fact it does not address the lack of leadership and the mistakes, the grievous mistakes, that have been made by Liberal politicians."

Lake also said in his announcement that the ministry is looking into whether or not to move the Burnaby local health area to Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. That's because of the large number of Burnaby patients who already go in to Vancouver for treatment.

Jones said he's willing to keep an open mind and would support moving to whichever health authority that would give Burnaby Hospital the resources it needs.

Burnaby Coun. Paul McDonell served seven years on the board of the Simon Fraser Health Region in the 1990s. His tenure ended when the Liberals were elected and the health regions were merged into five large health authorities.

McDonell believes Fraser Health is so large, covering the area from Burnaby to Boston Bar, that it's become unmanageable.

As for potentially moving Burnaby within Vancouver Coastal, he said, "Fraser Health is in turmoil right now … At least there'd be some stability going to Vancouver."

~ with files from Jeff Nagel

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