News Local

Delta surgical unit closes too early: group

By Jane Deacon



Barbara Weinberger’s appendix ruptured some time in the more than 12-hour period she waited for emergency surgery.


After experiencing severe pain, the Surrey resident had gone to Delta Hospital’s emergency room — after the surgical ward had closed for the day, which put her in a queue of surrounding-area hospitals.

“They madly tried to find a hospital that would take me and it pretty much took all night,” she said of the incident, which happened earlier this month. Her physician told her that if she had been able to receive surgery sooner, it would have been a less-complicated procedure with a faster recovery time.

A Delta advocacy group argues that, without a dedicated 24-hour emergency surgical service serving their community, people’s lives are at risk. The Friends of Delta Hospital is petitioning for greater funding in reaction to what they call dire cutbacks since the mid-1990s. The surgical initiative has been developed in consultation with the Delta Medical Staff Association and association president Dr. Robert Shaw.

Delta Hospital’s surgical ward is currently open between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., with a two-hour window at the end of the day for emergencies. Patients deemed too acute to wait are transferred to nearby hospitals, typically Surrey Memorial Hospital or Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

“We have the diagnostics, we have the facilities, but our surgical centre is only open until 3 p.m.,” said Nicholas Wong of the Friends of Delta Hospital. “That leads to major repercussions, as in the story with Barbara. It’s criminal to put someone’s life at risk.”

A 24-hour service would be possible through a $5-million influx to the hospital’s operating budget, claims the group, but Fraser Health Authority officials say the budget question isn’t that simple.

“We keep an eye on how well we are looking after patients all over Fraser Health,” said Dr. Peter Blair, program medical director for surgery. “With our data, we just don’t think there’s enough demand for after-hours emergency surgery to justify the investment that would be required in being able to offer that service.”

The existing system is not uncommon in facilities throughout the regional health authority, he added, noting that wait times for patients can happen anywhere in the system when hospitals are busy.

“Any hospital can be busy and all cases are prioritized,” he said. “Very rarely a patient can become worse during that wait.” 

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