The Lower Mainland’s medical community is stunned after receiving an urgent memo from a highly-respected doctor about Langley Memorial Hospital’s emergency department – saying it is near collapse and patients should be discouraged from going there.
CTV News has obtained the email, written by Dr. Jeff Plante and sent to physicians across Fraser Health late Friday afternoon, describing very sick patients warehoused in the emergency department for days since there aren’t enough physicians in the wards to care for new people.
“I would like to urge you to advise your patients to, if at all possible, bypass Langley Memorial Hospital for any acute, urgent medical needs effective immediately,” he wrote, saying he’d never seen emergency doctors so overrun with patients.
“The situation is dire and near catastrophic,” Plante went on to write. “Their department is near collapse under the weight of the current crisis. The situation is unsafe for physicians and patients alike.”
On Monday morning, a new memo to the physicians from the Langley Division of Family Practice board and staff reiterated their advice to “direct patients to attend other facilities than LMH if at all possible” and asked them to expand their clinic hours to help patients who may not need emergency care.
MAJOR HAS ‘GRAVE CONCERNS’
The mayor for the Township of Langley was concerned to learn of Plante’s memo and told CTV News that during a recent briefing with Fraser Health, community leaders were advised that June staffing shortages were even worse.
“I would definitely share grave concerns on behalf of Langley residents that a solution does need to be found,” said Eric Woodward. “It’s not acceptable what’s going on and what could potentially happen.”
He pointed out that Langley Memorial Hospital has been chronically underfunded, describing it as “second class” compared to the much larger hospitals in Abbotsford and Surrey, which he described as unfair and deeply frustrating given the growth of his community in recent years.
“The province is always saying ‘housing, housing, housing, supply’ and ‘what are you doing about housing?’” said Woodward. “I can create all the housing in the Lower Mainland but what is the plan for some of these infrastructure challenges?”
Two months ago, a Langley woman who nearly bled to death during a miscarriage said she was kicked out of a room and spent the night in a hallway along with other patients.
FRASER HEALTH AND THE MINISTER RESPOND
The health minister didn’t deny there were “challenges” at LMH, but pointed out all of the province’s hospitals are busier than they usually would be for this time of year.
“The hospitals are extraordinarily busy,” said Adrian Dix. “There are some specific issues at Langley that we’re working hard with our hospitalists and with everyone else working at the hospital to resolve.”
The medical director for Langley Memorial Hospital spoke to CTV News on behalf of the facility and Fraser Health and insisted the hospital is ready to care for patients, thanks to doctors from outside LMH stepping up to help with their physician shortage.
“It’s not unique to Langley, but it is particularly acute at Langley right now,” said Dr. Partner Maharaj. “That’s creating a lot of stress in the system and resulting in longer than normal wait times for patients, which is certainly not what we prefer to see happen.”
When CTV News asked why the hospital wasn’t limiting its emergency department hours when it was critically short-staffed and diverting all new patients to other hospitals, as other communities in smaller cities or rural communities have done, he pointed out that it could be confusing for the public.
“The last thing you want when you’re in a healthcare emergency is to not know where to go or whether when you arrive there, help will be available,” said Maharaj. “When there are challenges we pull together and find solutions to those challenges as a healthcare community…no one is saying ‘this is not my problem, I’m not helping you.’ Everyone is saying, ‘how can I help.’”
He said that they’re relying on fill-in support for now, with longer-term goals for recruitment, which Dix said would include “solutions” used at other hospitals. Maharaj noted that Plante is a widely respected doctor in the community.
“Part of our obligation as physicians is to be patient advocates,” he said. “I fully respect when one of my colleagues, such as Dr. Plante, identifies a systems issue that he wants to bring attention to and raise concerns about.”