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Emergency Operations Centre activated at Surrey Memorial Hospital

In response to a barrage of questions about Surrey’s beleaguered hospital, B.C.’s minister of health told reporters that an Emergency Operations Centre was activated at the site on Wednesday afternoon. 

An EOC is an internal alert level that authorizes managers to bring on extra staff and use various resources to expand operations in order to meet soaring patient demand, which is typically only done in exceptional circumstances like the remarkable surge in sick patients as they did earlier this during the brutal respiratory season.

“We established an emergency operations centre (then), we'll be doing that today at Surrey Memorial Hospital,” said Adrian Dix, who met with obstetricians and emergency room doctors earlier in the day at Fraser Health’s headquarters.

CTV News pointed out the flurry of meetings and statements came after doctors’ concerns had been ignored or downplayed for months and they went public with dire warnings, asking Dix if it was time for a change in approach or even leadership at the province’s biggest health authority.

“There are issues to address as we emerge from the pandemic,” he responded, going on to voice full-throated support for Fraser Health's CEO, Dr. Victoria Lee, who’s been at the helm as the province has invested in hospital resources in Surrey. 

“The new contract (with hospitalist doctors) has taken too long, but it was partly due to our work in the pandemic,” Dix said. “We're doing a lot of work, these are part of many significant efforts to address concerned raised.”


Dr. Claudine Storness-Bliss, who blew the whistle on an infant death and “countless close calls” in the underserved obstetrics unit of the hospital earlier this week, attended a meeting with Dix Wednesday morning where she says he acknowledged the “crisis situation” around the province, but especially at SMH.

“You can't work on a problem if you don't acknowledge there's a problem in the first place,” she told CTV News. “I think that's a success and it's definitely a first step but it's not enough.”

On Tuesday, the hospitals Medical Staff Association publicly released a letter urging the health authority to turn away patients due to overwhelming demand, which they say had gone unanswered when they sent it to FHA administrators weeks ago. 

“This is something that was foreseeable, this is something that we've been ringing alarm bells about for months to years and now we're truly in crisis,” said Dr. Hnan Sharif, an SMH ER doctor and MSA executive. “At this point we still don't feel quite heard, but it is reassuring to know there is some movement and some conversations that are happening this week that haven't happened before.”

CTV News has learned that a town hall meeting between Fraser Health and SMH doctors is taking place behind closed doors Wednesday evening.


The BC Nurses’ Union staged a hundreds-strong rally in downtown Vancouver amid the crisis at SMH and other Fraser Health hospitals, demanding the government implement its promise for sustainable nurse-patient ratios they say have been successful in other countries in improving patient care and drawing nurses back to the profession.

“Nurses have been holding (the system) together the best they can and we know you are tired,” BCNU president, Aman Grewal, told the crowd. “If nurses are healthy, the healthcare system is healthy.”

CTV News spoke with an SMH emergency department nurse at the rally who said displeasure with the system is often taken out on frontline staff.

“We get a lot of people that are really angry and upset and they do voice their concerns to us, sometimes in a not real nice way,” said Peggy Holton. “The reality is they're frustrated and they want healthcare and they're worried sick their loved one will have major impact if we do nothing.”

One of the deputy leaders for the BC Green Party pointed out what his peers have repeatedly told CTV News: the shortage of family doctors is driving even more people to the hospital, which was already struggling to handle a burgeoning population with only minor investments relative to the growth. 

“All of these problems are compounded by the lack of primary care in this province, whether it's sending cancer patients to Bellingham, whether it's overrun emergency rooms,” said Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, a pediatric heart surgeon who recently stepped down from BC Children’s hospital. “We’re not delivering on the promise of universal healthcare.” Top Stories

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