When Angie Lowis’s five-year-old son started to feel unwell, she called 811, hoping to speak to a nurse.
After being put on hold for 90 minutes, Lowis and her husband took their son to Surrey Memorial Hospital’s pediatric emergency room, as his fever and cough worsened.
When the Surrey family arrived, there was a lineup to check in and there were no available seats in the waiting room. Lowis said saw some parents holding their sick babies in their arms for hours while they waited. She was worried that her son might get even more sick if he waited in the emergency room, so she sent him to sit with her husband in the car while they waited
After six hours at the hospital, her son was sent home after being seen by the doctor, who gave him Advil as his cough had improved.
Lowis noted health care workers at the hospital were doing everything within their means to help people but describes the experience in the waiting room as “brutal.”
Elenore Sturko, Surrey South MLA, says Lowis’s experience is all too common.
Sturko says she has been hearing from concerned constituents about the strained health-care system and the impact it’s having on their families, especially in light of the shortage of children’s painkillers.
“Parents feel there’s very little option other than to take their child to the hospital,” she said.
Sturko said she recently received an email from a health care worker who works in the pediatric emergency room at Surrey Memorial Hospital. While the worker wants to remain anonymous, Sturko says she has talked to the person and they agree the situation is “beyond a crisis.”
“Surrey Memorial Peds ER is seeing an average of 250 kids a day in a 12-bed ER,” the email states. “The kids they see in the ER are very sick. The current wait time for triage is two to three hours and eight to 10 hours to see a doctor. Patients are in the hallways. Some kids are even transferred to the adult ER.”
Sturko said this highlights the need for Surrey’s coming new hospital in Cloverdale to include a pediatric ER and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
Jinny Sims, MLA for Surrey Panorama, said Fraser Health assessed what the new hospital needed and it is being built off this assessment.
Sims told the Now-Leader she is “heartbroken” by all the stories she sees on the news and social media.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic still,” said Sims. “On top of that we’ve got this respiratory virus and on top of that we have flu.”
Health Canada warned Canadians in the fall of a worse-than-usual respiratory season.
In September, the government of B.C. reminded residents to roll up their sleeves and get their annual flu shot.
“I certainly got my great-granddaughter vaccinated,” Sims said.
The primary way people can reduce the burden on the health-care system is by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, washing their hands and staying home when they are sick, according to the province.
When children do spike a fever, parents will often reach for medication for their kids to break the fever, but that medication is hard to come by. There is currently a national shortage of painkiller medication for children.
The shortage began last spring but was exacerbated in the summer, when an early appearance of influenza and RSV coincided with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
If it is not a medical emergency, Dr. Craig Murray, regional medical director of emergency medicine for Fraser Health, recommends calling your family doctor or if they are unavailable going to an urgent care centre.
Surrey has two urgent and primary care centres. One is located in Netwon (6830 King George Blvd) and the other is in Whalley (Unit G2 9639 137A Street).
-With files from The Canadian Press & Jane Skrypnek