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Sask. family furious that 84-year-old dad waited 52 hours in emergency room

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Fri Jun 3, 5:39 PM ET

SASKATOON (CP) - A Saskatchewan family is furious that their 84-year-old father had to wait more than two days in a crowded and noisy emergency room before he was admitted to hospital for bleeding in his brain.

Halldor Gundmundson fell at his Saskatoon retirement home on Tuesday and was taken by ambulance to Royal University Hospital - the province's busiest emergency room.

His daughter Arlene Mitschke said he was looked at by doctors right away and diagnosed rather quickly. But it ended up taking 52 hours to find him a bed in the neurosurgery ward.

"It was packed and there were people everywhere," Mitschke said. "It was loud and you can't turn the lights off.

"It was very traumatic for him, very hard on him. He couldn't sleep, he couldn't rest, he couldn't get comfortable. It would be like working at your office 24 hours a day with all the noise going off and phones ringing and all that activity without getting any actual downtime."

Gundmundson, a widowed father of four who served with the army in the Second World War, is now resting in hospital while his family decides the best course of treatment.

Mitschke was quick to praise the staff at the hospital, saying they were doing the best that they could under very busy circumstances.

She said the buck stops with the provincial government for not providing the staff with the proper resources to do their jobs.

"He was given good medical care. The point is he couldn't get a bed," Mitschke said.

"I think that our health minister should account for the fact that there is a 52-hour wait for an 84-year-old veteran. I think the premier of Saskatchewan should be held accountable for that."

Inquiries to the government were deferred to the Saskatoon Health Region.

Spokeswoman Jean Morrison said that when a neurosurgery bed was not available, the decision was made to keep Gundmundson in the emergency room because that was the second-best place he could get treatment.

"The place where he could most appropriately get care was in the emergency department," Morrison told reporters.

"It's unfortunate. We wish that patients didn't have to stay in emergency - sometimes for longer than we would like.

"It's unusual for someone to have to wait 52 hours to get a bed outside of emergency."

This is not the first time the emergency department at Royal University Hospital has come under scrutiny.

Last year, the department's director, Dr. Jon Witt, wrote to Health Minister John Nilson to say he and other doctors felt patients had died or had become permanently disabled because they waited too long to see an emergency doctor.

After Witt's letter became public, the health region gave the doctors a pay raise and agreed to hire more doctors to increase ER coverage.

Less than two months later, Witt was fired from his administrative duties. He has said he was demoted because he spoke out, but hospital officials have said there were other issues.

The cases Witt drew attention to and Gundmundson's case differ in some respects.

Mitschke points out that her father was seen right away by emergency room staff.

It was finding a bed in the hospital that was the problem.

Good grief!!! An 84 year old man having to wait 52 hours for a bed!!! Unbelievable!!! I have heard of long waits at the ER's in the USA but not anything like 52 hours!!!! :o

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 28 years experience.

52 hours is a long time. Especially for something like a bleed.

I hate to admit in the busiest season here, patients wait a long time to get rooms. The longest waits are for noncritial med-surg patients that need isolation. Waits of 24 to 48 hours or longer do happen, but fortunately aren't as common, but waits of 12 hours or more were very common. But a patient such as this gentlemen would have gotten a higher priority for a bed.

A fifty two hours wait is a very long time but it is not that usual for a patient to have to wait for a bed, in any hospital, Canda or the United States.

Grannynurse

Wow...I think part of the problem with admits having to be housed in the ED is that patients are in beds who could be managed as outpatients, and because often there's not enough staff to have adequate numbers of beds for patients. We have to somehow reserve acute care beds for those who really need care that can't be managed as an outpatient. But the need for open beds has to be balanced with not discharging patients too soon, which causes too many re-admits for the same problem and sometimes very poor outcomes. Then, the next step is to somehow make healthcare an attractive career (such as keeping nurse:patient ratios reasonable) so that enough staff can be available to care for those who need to be there. Sounds simple, but it just isn't happening...... :o

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 27 years experience.

We have waits up to 18 hours! 12 hours is not uncommon!

caroladybelle, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology/Haemetology/HIV.

This last winter...Florida....a major hospital....waits of 24 hours or more in ER....admissions to the med/surg units in the halls for stays there of 12 hours or more. And no, the floor wasn't staffed for it and some of those in the halls had immunosuppression issues.

Why is it healthcare's job to give and increase and always be able to provide...especially when many of those patients taking up the beds are not that sick/ not able to pay for treatment/ or not compliant and admitted for issues related to that noncompliance? Why is this family not blaming those people and issues clogging the healthcare system that healthcare has little control over? We can no more control the number of patients/severity of illness that comes through the doors than we can control the weather, yet we are continually taking the heat for not working fast enough/hard enough/compassionate enough.

A lot of it is people issues and nothing that government can control.

Did the family want the hospital to kick someone out of a bed so that their veteran father could have one?

....

"He was given good medical care. The point is he couldn't get a bed," Mitschke said.

"I think that our health minister should account for the fact that there is a 52-hour wait for an 84-year-old veteran. I think the premier of Saskatchewan should be held accountable for that."

...

...Did the family want the hospital to kick someone out of a bed so that their veteran father could have one?

No one should wait 52 hours, veteran or not.

caroladybelle, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology/Haemetology/HIV.

No one should wait 52 hours, veteran or not.

And exactly, how were they to get him one, barring kicking someone else out?

One cannot simply pull a bed or staff or meds out of a hat at a moments' notice and the government cannot necessarily change that.

There will always be times when demand outstrips supply. This is neither healthcare nor the government's fault. Resources are finite.

And exactly, how were they to get him one, barring kicking someone else out?

One cannot simply pull a bed or staff or meds out of a hat at a moments' notice and the government cannot necessarily change that.

There will always be times when demand outstrips supply. This is neither healthcare nor the government's fault. Resources are finite.

Actually caroladybelle. I agree with you. From the tone of this article and what the daughter said, it seems the hospital did all they could.

It is just hard when we hear of folks waiting so long. It makes us feel helpless.

live4today, RN

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

One of my twelve grandchildren was nearly born in the hallway in front of the nurses station due to "no room on the ob unit". Lots of laboring moms, and no rooms made a few moms have to labor it out in the hallway in their beds. :rolleyes:

Does your hospital have this problem?

Fri Jun 3, 5:39 PM ET

SASKATOON (CP) - A Saskatchewan family is furious that their 84-year-old father had to wait more than two days in a crowded and noisy emergency room before he was admitted to hospital for bleeding in his brain.

Halldor Gundmundson fell at his Saskatoon retirement home on Tuesday and was taken by ambulance to Royal University Hospital - the province's busiest emergency room.

His daughter Arlene Mitschke said he was looked at by doctors right away and diagnosed rather quickly. But it ended up taking 52 hours to find him a bed in the neurosurgery ward.

"It was packed and there were people everywhere," Mitschke said. "It was loud and you can't turn the lights off.

"It was very traumatic for him, very hard on him. He couldn't sleep, he couldn't rest, he couldn't get comfortable. It would be like working at your office 24 hours a day with all the noise going off and phones ringing and all that activity without getting any actual downtime."

Gundmundson, a widowed father of four who served with the army in the Second World War, is now resting in hospital while his family decides the best course of treatment.

Mitschke was quick to praise the staff at the hospital, saying they were doing the best that they could under very busy circumstances.

She said the buck stops with the provincial government for not providing the staff with the proper resources to do their jobs.

"He was given good medical care. The point is he couldn't get a bed," Mitschke said.

"I think that our health minister should account for the fact that there is a 52-hour wait for an 84-year-old veteran. I think the premier of Saskatchewan should be held accountable for that."

Inquiries to the government were deferred to the Saskatoon Health Region.

Spokeswoman Jean Morrison said that when a neurosurgery bed was not available, the decision was made to keep Gundmundson in the emergency room because that was the second-best place he could get treatment.

"The place where he could most appropriately get care was in the emergency department," Morrison told reporters.

"It's unfortunate. We wish that patients didn't have to stay in emergency - sometimes for longer than we would like.

"It's unusual for someone to have to wait 52 hours to get a bed outside of emergency."

This is not the first time the emergency department at Royal University Hospital has come under scrutiny.

Last year, the department's director, Dr. Jon Witt, wrote to Health Minister John Nilson to say he and other doctors felt patients had died or had become permanently disabled because they waited too long to see an emergency doctor.

After Witt's letter became public, the health region gave the doctors a pay raise and agreed to hire more doctors to increase ER coverage.

Less than two months later, Witt was fired from his administrative duties. He has said he was demoted because he spoke out, but hospital officials have said there were other issues.

The cases Witt drew attention to and Gundmundson's case differ in some respects.

Mitschke points out that her father was seen right away by emergency room staff.

It was finding a bed in the hospital that was the problem.

Yeah, I know...I live here.

caroladybelle, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology/Haemetology/HIV.

Actually caroladybelle. I agree with you. From the tone of this article and what the daughter said, it seems the hospital did all they could.

It is just hard when we hear of folks waiting so long. It makes us feel helpless.

I know. And they generally take out the frustrations on the frontliners...the staff.

...when they should really be directing anger and letters to their Member of Parliament.

Someone who can actually.... sort of..... do something. :rolleyes:

Z

This ER has a long history of various problems. The nurses there have been trying to have things changed for a long time with very little success.

The Premier here is pretty much useless, and the Health Minister (John Nilson) is even worse. Change for anything in this province takes a long, long time, and healthcare takes a back seat (although TPTB deny it).

I work ICU, and we play musical beds constantly. Actually we just had to cancel surgeries because there were no med/surg beds.

We've had admitted pts. in ER on stretchers for 2- 3 days max. until a bed has become available. It is hard because it ties up an ER bed and our ER does not have a layout like a floor would have with med carts, etc...

I empathize with the family but what else can you do when there is no room at the inn.

Sarah

Granted, it was a long wait for the bed, but the patient was seen on a timely basis and did have access to medical care. It is not as tho he was in the waiting room the entire time....

Should it happen? Of course not. Does it happen? Oh yeah. The longest I know of, where I work, is 4 nights sleeping in Emerg---and I mean ER, not a stepdown holding area (that was already full). Doing 72hr routine IV restarts in ER!

No easy answers, I'm glad to see that the family felt his actual care was good though.

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