Saskatoon

Nurses' union frustrated by unprecedented crowding in Saskatoon's largest hospital

Saskatoon's largest hospital is facing record overcrowding, and officials need to do more to fix the problem, says the president of the provincial nurses' union.

Sask. Health Authority says work progressing on action plans in Regina, Saskatoon

A total of 80 patients in the Royal University hospital emergency room were waiting for a bed in other parts of the hospital Wednesday night, according to the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses. They couldn't be moved because those wards were all full. That included 4 mental health patients waiting in beds in the hall for a total of more than 120 hours, they said.
A total of 80 patients in the Royal University Hospital emergency room were waiting for a bed in other parts of the hospital Wednesday night and couldn't be moved because those wards were all full, according to the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Saskatoon's largest hospital is facing record overcrowding and officials need to do more to fix the problem, says the president of the provincial nurses' union.

"It's really quite disturbing. Our members are trying to do the best they can," said Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory.

Zambory said that as of Wednesday evening, there were 80 patients in the ER at Royal University Hospital who needed a bed in other areas, but couldn't be moved because those wards were all full. That included four mental health patients waiting in beds in the hall for a total of more than 120 hours.

She said it's the worst it's ever been, and that it seems overcrowding issues are "becoming the norm, and it shouldn't because it's very dangerous."

"It's inhumane to think that certified mental health patients, people who are very sick, are being left to languish and become sicker in the hallway," she said.

WATCH | Saskatoon patient calls 911 to report herself as fire hazard at overcrowded hospital: 

Saskatoon patient calls 911 to report herself as fire hazard at overcrowded hospital

3 months ago
Duration 2:27
Shaylyn Cowper waited seven hours for a bed inside St. Paul's emergency department Monday night. When nursing staff put her in a bed in the front entrance, she called 911 to report the fire hazard.

According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority website, every unit inside Royal University was full. Some areas were well over capacity, including neuroscience and mental health.

Staff and patients in the province's major hospitals have been sounding the alarm since the fall.

In November, the fire marshall was called to Saskatoon's St. Paul's Hospital because beds were blocking fire exits. Earlier this month, a patient at St. Paul's called the fire marshall when her bed was placed at the ER entrance, partially blocking access.

SHA gives action plan update

The health authority announced a "capacity pressure action plan" for Saskatoon in November, and one for Regina in December.

On Thursday, SHA officials provided an update on those action plans.

They said 280 permanent positions have been added across the province, although only 90 — all in Saskatoon — have been filled so far. The rest are currently posted.

"We really acknowledge and understand the impact of overcapacity challenges on our staff, on our point-of-care teams. We also understand that it has an impact on patients," said Derek Miller, the health authority's chief operating officer.

"[The two plans] are about addressing the root cause of some of the day-to-day challenges that sometimes our teams have to deal with."

According to the SHA's update, 116 hospital and community beds have been added in Regina and Saskatoon, including the following:

  • 46 beds at Royal University Hospital.
  • Five beds at St. Paul's Hospital.
  • 32 transitional beds in Saskatoon.
  • 27 beds in Regina's long-term care program.
  • Six hospice beds at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre in Regina.

Staff are also working on adding up to 400 transitional, convalescent and long-term care beds in the two cities.

Zambory said that from what she is hearing from nurses, the action plans have "amounted to nothing," with the situation actually getting worse in Saskatoon's hospital system in Saskatoon.

"All of the extolling of all the good things that they've done with this, it has not worked out," she said. "It has not translated one little bit to the front lines, and now we have people suffering even more."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

With files from Hannah Spray

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