By Gillian Slade on September 28, 2018.
The additional internal security doors being installed at Bow Island Health Centre will not affect the policy to lock the entrance after 5 p.m., Alberta Health Services says.
“They will remain locked as per our previous communication,” Grant Walker, senior operating officer at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital, said Thursday.
When the News revealed in an Aug. 2 story that Bow Island’s hospital had begun locking its doors after 5 p.m., an AHS spokesperson said new doors would be installed by December to secure the emergency department from public areas.
“Once these upgrades have been made, AHS will re-evaluate the time it locks its doors,” an emailed statement said.
The additional doors will only enhance control within the emergency department, said Walker.
“It is not going to impact or enable the external doors to be unlocked,” he explained.
The cost of the doors, updating sprinklers and relocating cameras is approximately $75,000, an AHS spokesperson said. This will also allow for the control of entrances from the nursing station and admitting desk after 5 p.m.
A Bow Island resident revealed at Monday’s Palliser Triangle Health Advisory Council meeting on Monday that someone had arrived in an emergency at the locked doors with a seriously ill patient and struggled to gain access.
Former council chair Ken Sauer claimed that AHS is spending millions on addressing opioid issues while other things are falling apart.
“This is a serious situation in Bow Island,” he said.
All patients should have equal access to services, said PTHAC member Sara Joan Armour.
Ambulance crews do not enter through the doors that lock after 5 p.m. When they pull up to the emergency entrance the door automatically lifts to allow them to drive in, said Walker. Signage indicates the public may also enter there in an emergency.
Walker says he does not believe the idea of posting a security guard at the main entrance after 5 p.m. was considered as a solution, and it is not being considered now, because it has not been identified as a requirement.
Another irritant, according to a woman whose mother is in long-term care at the hospital, is that windows can no longer be opened. Sylvia Strom says the windows have been fixed in place with screws.
Walker said the primary reason for this was safety for patients and maintaining climate control.
Renovations to the hospital included enhancing cooling and heating systems, said Walker. Opening external windows compromises that.
Strom as well noted difficulty certain patients and family members have leaving the building. It requires pushing on the handicap button. In an emergency, the doors can be forced open by pressing a shoulder to them, said Walker. AHS has plans to enhance signage.
Several families with loved ones in long-term care referred at the PTHAC meeting to reduced staff, which may be putting patients at risk.
Walker says there has been no reduction in the Bow Island hospital budget and no cuts to staffing levels. In the long-term care area, staffing levels are higher than the provincial guideline, he said.
“We have made some changes recently to staff rotations to align with the collective agreement and that may have contributed to some of the comments,” said Walker. “Staffing levels have not changed. Their hours may have.”