Overcapacity “fiasco” inside Royal University Hospital: Nurse

A registered nurse says Royal University Hospital (RUH) is consistently overcapacity, short-staffed and lacking desperately needed supplies and equipment, which she says is hurting the level of care. The nurse points to Jan. 1 as a clear example of the ongoing crisis, as ambulances were lined up at the hospital, unable to unload their patients because there was nowhere to put them.

Lynn, a registered nurse with more than 30 years of experience at RUH, says the Jan. 1 situation was the final straw that compelled her to speak out. She describes the overcrowding as a “fiasco,” and says overcapacity conditions have become a daily reality in the hospital, and are getting worse. Lynn has asked that her real name be withheld for fear of repercussions for speaking out.

“Being overcapacity is frequent and it’s becoming more frequent,” said Lynn. She described a backlog of ambulances waiting on Jan. 1. “They couldn’t unload patients. There was no place to put them,” she said.

She says the overcrowding challenge is often worsened by infrastructure failures, as was the case on Jan. 1. The power went out in RUH’s operating rooms after a water line break, leaving some patients to be transferred to City Hospital for their surgeries, then back to RUH again. 

There were patient rooms out of commission as well, while sewage leaked from one floor to another, a problem Lynn says took four days to resolve.

Saskatoon’s hospitals have had overcapacity warnings throughout the first part of January. Prince Albert’s hospital has also had an overcapacity warning since Jan. 6. NDP Leader Cam Broten said overcrowding and under-resourcing is a wide-spread problem.

“Increasingly, I’m hearing about families waiting in the ER for hours, patients spending days in a bed in the hallway, people in pain waiting hours for someone to check on them and families being told day after day that their loved one’s surgery has been bumped, yet again,” said Broten. “These stories are heart-breaking, and they’re not going to stop as long as this government keeps neglecting the basics in our hospitals and care facilities and allowing its obsession with John Black’s version of Lean to block common sense and divert resources from where they’re desperately needed – on the front lines.”

Lynn is also frustrated by ongoing short staffing in front-line positions, and the lack of desperately needed supplies and equipment she says was caused by Lean. 

“We are typically short-staffed,” she said, adding that concerns brought to management have been ignored. “People wait for days to have their tests done, and we don’t have enough equipment because of Lean.”

Pillows and vital-sign machines are among the basic supplies and equipment that are now in short supply, a problem Lynn attributes to the John Black Lean program, which has reduced the availability of basic supplies and equipment in its drive to only have a bare minimum available.

Lynn also says patients are moved out of RUH too soon as a result of the John Black Lean program. She says Lean treats patients "like an assembly line."

The government is spending millions every year on the John Black version of Lean, and has made the program permanent. The often-bizarre program includes health professionals spending days folding paper airplanes and memorizing Japanese-inspired terminology with pricey Lean senseis flown in from Japan. A large layer of Lean management and administration has been added to oversee the program; train staff in John Black’s methods; defend the program through communications; and implement the John Black version of Lean in every health facility in the province.

“I don’t know how much more this government needs to hear from patients, families, nurses, doctors and other front-line health care workers before it will finally take this seriously,” said Broten. “This government is dropping the ball on meeting the health care needs of Saskatchewan people. Instead of fixing the basics, which are broken right now, this government is just obsessed with its toxic and wasteful pet project. It’s time to stop diverting millions of health-care dollars to the John Black version of Lean and put them back on the front lines of care.”

Broten also called on the government to immediately create a capital-priorities schedule to start addressing the building and maintenance needs of hospitals, health centres and seniors care homes.

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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus