Bermuda Hospitals Board has updated the community on bed capacity at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
Bermuda is currently experiencing higher levels of flu and respiratory illness. This, along with an aging and increasingly chronically ill community, as well as difficulty discharging seniors due to the lack of community nursing home facilities, has caused a sustained surge in demand. This is being felt in the Emergency Department, and admissions have increased for Acute Care Wing and General Wing units, leading to the hospital being over capacity.
In just three days (February 18 to February 20), there were 279 Emergency Department visits. It took an average of 3.13 hours for Emergency patients to be seen, treated and discharged over this period. Thirty eight (38) Emergency patients were admitted to an inpatient ward just over this three-day period. The maximum number of beds in the Acute Care Wing is 90. The wait to be admitted to an inpatient bed was 4.83 hours on Saturday, but on Sunday and Monday it took over 15 hours.
Delays are occurring in Emergency as people wait to be assessed, because the department has been filled with admissions awaiting transfer to hospital ward beds. A Fast Track service is running in the Emergency Department to reduce waiting times for patients. Although the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre (UCC) remains closed for refurbishments until March 1, UCC staff are working in the Emergency Department to help cope with demand.
To cope with demand for inpatient beds, wards in the General Wing are currently being used for acute admissions. Additional space is being sought within the hospital to cope with the high number of inpatients and some elective (ie non-emergency) surgeries may be postponed as available bed space is optimized, although outpatient surgery will continue as usual.
Chief of Emergency, Dr Edward Schultz, comments: “Our hospital staff are working round the clock across departments to care for the current levels of unwell people in Bermuda. We ask for the community’s understanding and patience if they come to Emergency. We are doing all we can to ensure everyone can access the services they need. This is not about mis-use of Emergency services as individuals coming to us at the moment are very sick. However, people who can wait to see their GP should, and we are asking GPs to refer non-emergency cases who need access to specialists directly to the specialist – for example, surgical lancing of abscesses can go directly to a surgeon for an outpatient appointment. This will help us focus on the people who truly need Emergency services.”
Chief of Nursing, Judy Richardson, comments: “Although the situation has eased slightly today, we apologise for the inconvenience caused by delays for patients being admitted to wards and for patients waiting to be assessed in the Emergency Department. As the Island’s only hospital we do whatever is needed to cope to ensure those who are sick or injured get the care they need. While delays are being experienced and people may not find themselves on the usual wards for acute care, I would like to reassure the community that they will be cared for. The surge is most significant in our senior population and the lack of community home beds is making it increasingly difficult to discharge people when they no longer need acute care services to free up capacity. This increase in inpatient numbers has to be staffed and support services increased to ensure safe clinical care, a clean environment and additional patient meals. I would like to thank all of our staff across the board who are working tirelessly and determinedly to keep services available for all those in need.”
The public is asked to help hospital staff at this time of high capacity by using services appropriately and maintaining their health wherever possible:
- If you have a close relative at KEMH who is ready to be discharged, please work with the hospital teams to get them home without delay.
- If you have a minor illness or injury, book an appointment with your GP – you will avoid long waits. If you are in an Emergency situation, however, please do not hesitate in seeking care at the hospital.
- If you know which specialist you need and it is not an Emergency, make an appointment directly with the specialist (if you need a referral, see your GP).
- Manage any chronic conditions you might have – for example, make sure you take your hypertension or diabetes medication to avoid an emergency.
- Look after yourself: eat healthily, exercise and wash your hands regularly to try and avoid infections and optimize your wellbeing.
- Drive safely at all times – and don’t drink and drive! You can avoid an Emergency visit and an admission by not ending up in a road accident.