A Port Coquitlam man is telling a harrowing story of a 14-hour wait to see a doctor at Port Moody's Eagle Ridge Hospital (ERH).
"I felt like a piece of trash," said Raymond Wang, who entered the hospital on Monday (Aug. 28) at 6 p.m., and, except for having his blood pressure taken, was not seen by any medical staff during the overnight wait.
Debilitated by pain and weakness and unable to eat or even drink water for two weeks due to vomiting and diarrhea, Wang went to the emergency room seeking help because his regular doctor is out of town.
ERH is only one year into a $37.5-million upgrade to its emergency department, but there are signs it is already being stretched at the seams.
On Tuesday (Aug. 29) at 3 p.m., hospital wait times posted online showed a 6:14-hour wait time and a 9:43-hour length of stay — the longest waits of all the emergency care providers on the list.
In a statement, Fraser Health said it was "sorry" to hear about Wang's experience and had reached out to him directly to hear his concerns.
However, spokesperson Nick Eagland said patients are prioritized by how severely ill they are when present at the emergency department, with those with life-threatening illness seen first.
Hopeful he would be seen by a doctor
Initially, Wang was hopeful.
The 46-year-old man said he walked in and was greeted by someone in reception.
"I told them I had bad vomiting and diarrhea symptoms [they said] 'OK, just sit there and we will call you,'" Wang explained.
"After five minutes, the front desk nurse called me in....She took my blood pressure and said 'it's not so good.' I said 'OK, then I'm glad I’m here.'"
However, as the night progressed, and Wang continued to feel ill and tired, he noticed patients around him who were also in dire straits.
He said people were panting and looked uncomfortable; one lady yelled at a nurse and was escorted out.
"I didn't want to be put out by the security guy. I just tried my best to hold up until I broke."
Wang said, at one point during his gruelling overnight stay, a nurse came out with a list of all the emergency rooms and the wait times, suggesting to those waiting for care that they could choose to go elsewhere.
But he had already spent so much time and didn't feel well enough to drive to another hospital and start the process again.
"I was hoping someone in the emergency room can give me something, even a temporary fix, and I can wait until my family doctor comes back," Wang said.
"I just feel like probably I'm not the only one (who had to wait a long time)."
Fearful for future of health care
He felt so sick he tried calling 911 but was told he was already in ER and there was nothing paramedics could do for him.
Finally, he gave up waiting, and walked out of the emergency room at ERH at 8:30 a.m., more than 14 hours after he arrived.
Back at home and still sick, Wang is waiting for his energy to return before he tries again — this time at a walk-in clinic somewhere in the Tri-Cities.
He said he doesn't understand how people can be asked to wait so long before being seen by an emergency room doctor.
Wang, who has lived in the Tri-Cities for 26 years with a wife and daughter, said he is fearful of the future of health care for the next generation.
"This is not an issue that one person can fix, it's not one person’s responsibility. But I want people to know, to bring attention, we need to fix this."
No explanation was provided about Wang's extraordinarily long wait time on Tuesday night, but Eagland stated in an email that the ongoing issue of human resources challenges, seen across the globe, "create stress, uncertainty and delays in care for patients, including those in our own region."
Fraser Health is working with the Ministry of Health to "build capacity to meet the needs of people who come to us for care," he added.
"This includes a robust health human resources strategy to recruit and retain health care staff and medical staff."
People looking to visit an ER are encouraged to check the wait times at emergency departments that are published online.
"We know long waits can be challenging for patients and their families and we thank them for their continued patience and kindness during visits to our emergency departments," Eagland added.