Here’s that letter you wanted

While I was in your emergency room on the holiday weekend, I heard you from behind the curtain

Dear ER nurse at Shuswap Lake General Hospital:

While I was in your emergency room on the holiday weekend, I heard you from behind the curtain. Not that I was trying to eavesdrop, but with the ER so full and the curtains not soundproof, I heard your plea. You were compassionately consoling a patient about the long wait that day and your frustration was unmistakable, as I heard you say: “I wish people would write to the hospital bosses or to the newspaper about the fact that there is no extra doctors or staff brought in on Sundays or holidays when the walk-in clinics are closed.”

While my powers as a newspaper columnist can be limited, I knew immediately that yours was a wish I could grant – even if only so you know that someone out there is listening to your plea, sympathizing with your plight, and would also like to see changes made. So here’s the letter in the newspaper as you requested.

To the people who control Interior Health’s budget for Shuswap Lake General Hospital.

I attended this fine establishment over the Easter weekend with my son in some distress due to an asthma attack.

I must compliment your medical staff on how well we were treated. As soon as the triage nurse heard me say asthma, I could tell she was on alert. As she conducted a quick, but thorough assessment, she assured me he would be treated promptly. This was no empty promise, as not more than a minute after we were processed through administration, he was whisked into the ER and was being administered medication via an oxygen mask.

I’ve done my time in ER waiting rooms for stitches or other lower priority issues, but breathing is a pretty big requirement for life, so I am comforted that your triage system is functioning as it should.

I couldn’t help but notice, as we were sitting in a chair in a fairly open area, that the single doctor and associated nursing staff were hopping busy – and not just because of some traumatic multi- car crash or outbreak of food poisoning at a large wedding. The rooms were full of patients with all the regular falls, chest pains, cuts, concussions and kidney stones.

Granted, there were people there who probably didn’t really require an emergency room (Hello, there Mr. I’ve Had a Cough for Six Days But Didn’t Go See A Doctor Before and Couldn’t Wait Another Day For Doctor’s Offices to Open, that means you.)

But the point is, when there are no other medical options available, the ER is where you head for help. The staff there were doing their utmost to deal with the backlog, but delays were obvious. And to me, as an outsider, it also seems obvious that on Sundays or holidays, the ER should be able to schedule more staff to deal with the inevitable fall-out.

Last time I was at emergency I received a survey about my experience. It stated the Interior Health was interested in my feedback. So here it is. Please invest in increased staffing for the ER on Sundays and holidays.

The patients deserve it, and so do the workers.