This story has been amended to include information provided by the Ministry of Health.
The new emergency department at Eagle Ridge Hospital is now three times bigger with 20 new treatment spaces and four isolation rooms for people with infectious illnesses, the province announced Monday.
The upgrades also include two new resuscitation areas for trauma patients.
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A source inside the hospital was ambivalent on completion of the 39-bed emergency department.
The new beds are great to have. However, there are not any new staff to care for the influx of patients, according to the source.
While acknowledging that B.C. is “extremely challenged by the health workforce shortage,” the Ministry of Health stated they were working to hire more staff at Eagle Ridge Hospital.
The announcement comes as one anonymous source at the hospital voiced concerns about a lack of staff to deal with the newly expanded emergency room.
The ministry is working via Fraser Health to hire emergency department qualified nurses as well as other Eagle Ridge Hospital staff. Fraser Health has shared line with Royal Columbian Hospital to recruit new staff.
“Staffing shortages are not something that we will be able to fix overnight, but it is something that we are working on as efficiently and effectively as possible,” stated Ministry of Health public affairs officer Amy Crofts.
The upgrades to the hospital should help serve the community for years to come, according to Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee.
“The enhancements were thoughtfully designed with safety and quality in mind to improve the experience for our patients while supporting our care teams to deliver high-quality care,” Lee stated in a press release.
Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly agreed.
“Work was needed at Eagle Ridge Hospital to keep pace with the demands of our rapidly growing region,” he stated.
The Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation chipped in $5 million toward the $37.5 million upgrade with the rest of the money coming from the province via Fraser Health.
The emergency department sees about 50,000 patients per year, according to the province. When the hospital opened in 1984, the emergency department saw about 20,000 patients per year.
Previously completed upgrades at the emergency department included separate areas for walk-in patients and ambulances as well as separate areas for patients with mental-health and substance-use support needs.
Eagle Ridge Hospital operated at more than 100 percent capacity for most of the past decade
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the inpatient occupancy rate at Eagle Ridge Hospital was 105.9 percent over the 2019/20 fiscal year – marking the eighth straight year in which the occupancy rate topped 100 percent, according to documents released through a freedom of information request.
Between 2012 and 2020, the hospital’s occupancy rate hit a high of 117.1 percent and a low of 101.5 percent.
In the first year of the coronavirus, the hospital’s occupancy rate dipped to 93.7 percent. So far this year Eagle Hospital’s occupancy rate is 99.8 percent – based on the first three quarters of the 2021/22 fiscal year.
In 2021/22, the average occupancy rate at Eagle Ridge Hospital was 99.5 percent. The most recent quarter in 2021/22 saw the occupancy rate rise to 102.9 percent.
From 2012 to 2020, the inpatient rate among all B.C. hospitals was approximately 102.7 percent. Over that same period, the occupancy rate at Eagle Ridge Hospital was approximately 107.0 percent.
The hospital has also seen an approximately 27 percent increase in total inpatient days since 2012. In 2011/12, the hospital’s patients stayed at Eagle Ridge for a total of 47,023 days. In 2019/20, patients spent 65,146 days at Eagle Ridge Hospital.
The hospital saw an expansion over that period, going from 107 acute care beds in 2011/12 to 165 in 2016/17.
From 2016 to 2020, Eagle Ridge Hospital’s acute care ward operated at 93.3 during the hospital’s slowest quarter and at a 111.2 percent occupancy rate at its busiest.