A New Brunswick mother is speaking out after she recently had to wait more than 12 hours to have her sick baby seen by a doctor at the Moncton Hospital.
On Friday, Emily Boros-Rausch went to the hospital with her eight-week-old baby, Laszlo. The infant had a fever, was vomiting, and had diarrhea.
“We were told many times by our family doctor, even when he was born at the hospital that if a newborn has the slightest fever, take them right to the emergency because it could be a sign of something bad,” she said. “So we rushed right there.”
They arrived around 8 p.m. There was an hour-and-a-half wait to be triaged, and it was another 12 hours before Boros-Rausch would see a doctor.
“When we finally saw a doctor after 12 hours, he was nothing but caring and helpful and trying to get down to the bottom of what was going on,” she said. “But there’s just not enough doctors, which is making the wait time dangerously long.”
She said nobody else in the emergency room, which was nearly full, was seen that night because there was only one doctor working, who was tied up in the trauma department.
“There were definitely times where I was in tears because I was so worried and frustrated,” she said. “It got me thinking, are we safe here with little children? … How’s there only one doctor in emergency all night?”
Several people ended up leaving without receiving care, said Boros-Rausch.
“It was really upsetting. I was really heartbroken by the people that I met and talked to, and heard about how long they were waiting, and seeing people literally crying in pain,” she said. “It was just a heartbreaking experience. I just can’t believe that this is happening in our province.”
She said the overnight wait was “very stressful.” There were no bassinets or anywhere to lay Laszlo down comfortably, so she had to hold him the whole time.
“He was crying a good chunk of the time,” she said. “There was a super kind nurse who saw how desperate I was and came and held him for a minute so I could go to the washroom. It was just very chaotic.”
Hospitals ‘aren’t set up for children’
Laszlo vomited on a chair and the floor, and security staff helped Boros-Rausch clean it up.
There was also nowhere sanitary to change the baby, who was suffering from diarrhea and needed frequent diaper changes. The emergency room bathroom had vomit on the floor and in the sink, and she didn’t feel comfortable changing him there.
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After asking for a safe place to change Laszlo, she was moved to a hallway where she could then change him on tables and chairs.
She said staff even apologized to her for the hospital being inaccessible for babies.
“As a province without a children’s hospital, I was really surprised to see our hospitals aren’t set up for children,” she said.
After the 12-hour wait, Laszlo was given IV fluids and his condition improved. He had his blood tested to see if he had an infection — thankfully, he didn’t — and they left the hospital after they got the results.
In all, they ended up spending about 18 hours at the hospital.
Boros-Rausch is clear in not blaming the staff who tried their best to help her and the other patients who were waiting.
“The problem isn’t the doctors or the staff who were working tirelessly. I saw nurses running for 12-straight hours, all through the night, to help people, to try to accommodate people,” she said.
“There’s just not enough staff. Even the nurses said, ‘We need two doctors here at night. One doctor’s just not enough.’”
She said she has “nothing but gratitude and respect” for health-care workers, but there needs to be more pressure placed on the government to improve the health-care system so “no one gets left behind.”
She also wants to see smaller changes implemented to make the wait for babies and children more comfortable, like having more changing tables and bedding options.
Health-care providers ‘doing their best’
The New Brunswick Medical Society says staffing shortages across the health-care sector are continuing to contribute to long wait times.
In an interview, society president Dr. Paula Keating said they’ve called on governments to increase the number of billable hours in emergency rooms to alleviate the strain.
“We certainly share in the frustration and empathize with patients that who have to wait for what we consider an excessive length of time to receive urgent or emergency care,” said Keating. “As a province, we need to take steps to address the overcrowding in the emergency rooms and the excessive wait times that patients are experiencing.”
While she couldn’t speak specifically to the situation at the Moncton Hospital, she said it’s not uncommon for emergency rooms to have just one doctor working overnight, though it depends on the size and location of the emergency department.
As for making waiting rooms more comfortable for babies and children, Keating said “we could certainly use more space and perhaps more child-friendly and baby-friendly spaces.”
“But health-care providers in hospitals are doing their best to provide the best care that they can,” she added.
In a statement, Horizon Health Network, which oversees the Moncton Hospital, said it “continues to work hard to improve conditions in our Emergency Departments (EDs) and improving patient flow and patient experience throughout our health care system.”
“This is a busy time of year for our EDs, and our dedicated health care teams are working very hard to provide safe and quality care,” Greg Doiron, vice-president of clinical operations, wrote.
Doiron said they are working to enhance primary care options in the Moncton area to reduce emergency department strain, and recently added an influenza-like illness clinic at the Moncton Hospital which allows patients referred from the emergency department to be seen more quickly by a physician.
“Patients with the most urgent medical needs are always seen first,” he said. “Those with less urgent needs will likely experience longer than normal wait times, and, as always, we encourage patients to visit sowhywait.ca to explore available options for care, such as a pharmacist, primary health care provider, after-hours clinic, virtual care (such as eVisitNB.ca), Tele-Care 811, or an Emergency Department.”
Sean Hatchard, a spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, said it “recognizes there are challenges within the health-care system, including capacity and staffing issues in some of the province’s emergency departments.”
“The Department of Health continues to work collaboratively with the regional health authorities to ensure New Brunswickers can access the care they require in a timely fashion,” the statement said. “It also understands that jurisdictions across Canada and around the globe are dealing with similar challenges, and that progress will take some time.”
Hatchard said the department is also focused on recruiting and retaining health-care workers across the system, and finding other ways to connect New Brunswickers with primary care services to help alleviate the pressure on emergency departments.
Meanwhile, Boros-Rausch said Laszlo is doing much better. He’s since had follow-up appointments with his family doctor, who said he will need to go back to the emergency room if he gets another fever.
“That was definitely hard to hear again after our experience,” she said.
She said the experience has left her feeling worried for the future of the province’s health-care system, and has her questioning her move to New Brunswick from her home province of Ontario five years ago.
“It’s just scary, the state that the health-care system is in. It’s scary that people are waiting so long, especially an eight-week-old baby. It’s not really functioning properly if people are waiting that long or not even being seen in emergency all night long,” she said.
“I think that if I would have known more about the health-care system here and the emergency room wait times and how understaffed the hospitals are, I really think we may have rethought the move east.”