A Victoria man – who has faced an agonizing wait for a follow-up appointment after experiencing heart palpitations – says his experience highlights the crisis unfolding during Islands Health’s operating room and medical staff shortage.
On Sept. 11, William Perry had symptoms of dizziness and shortness of breath. With his cardiac arrest history, he called 911.
Ambulances arrived within eight minutes, and he was assisted and taken to Royal Jubilee Hospital. He also suffered from a fall during the incident, injuring his shoulder, neck and hit his head on a tile floor.
“The doctor ordered numerous tests, including for upper respiratory infections, covering the COVID virus and respiratory syncytial virus,” said Perry. “Given my description of events, I would have expected additional tests, such as a CT scan, for my head during the previous fall; however, that did not occur.”
Royal Jubilee and Victoria General Hospitals are currently operating on a reduced schedule, with 18 of 22 regular operating rooms in use. Royal Jubilee has been running with one less operating room, affecting up to 312 general surgeries. Island Health says the reduction began on Sept. 5 and will continue until Oct. 27 due to ongoing “workforce challenges.”
Perry, who has a pacemaker, says he has struggled to find adequate care and follow-up appointments after the incident because the pacemaker clinic and Royal Jubilee information systems aren’t linked, he was told.
“In the ER, the attending physician was unable to see my file held at the pacemaker clinic because the systems are not integrated. This after-hour barrier is unacceptable,” said Perry.
Perry has been trying to receive diagnostic tests for the last month to investigate whether one of the leads to his pacemaker has failed, which can cause all the symptoms he was experiencing.
Perry’s cardiac arrest history dates back to 2004, after his symptoms were misdiagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease, which resulted in two Nissen fundoplication surgeries, only to continue with medical episodes that returned him to the ER several times. After several tests, Perry was fitted for a pacemaker.
He says that over the past seven years, he continues to experience symptoms, resulting in him seeking answers with countless ambulance rides and ER stays.
“As I am immunocompromised, I was told that test takes between 24 and 36 hours. I have no one to follow up with to learn its results,” said Perry.
Perry has continued to attempt to receive follow-up appointments over the phone through Telus Health and Rocket Doctor, and believes the current medical staff and operating room shortages have led to the inefficient communication he has received regarding his health.
Island Health says the shortage is not unique to Island Health or even B.C., and the issues are expanding nationally and internationally.
“We recognize the challenges faced by patients and our care teams, and we appreciate patience and leadership as we work through this unprecedented pressure on our system,” said Andrew Leyne from Island Health media relations.
With regards to recruitment, a nationwide campaign is underway that will increase capacity in perioperative training programs, according to Island Health. Plans are in place to ramp back up to using additional operating rooms at Victoria General and Royal Jubilee in November.
However, Perry says he is deeply concerned about the quality of care moving forward.
“Given my third-degree atrioventricular block, the likelihood of symptoms being viewed as something else – confirmation bias, which increases the opportunity that this will most certainly end badly for me,” said Perry. “I feel that I have been more than patient. I am extremely disappointed and would appreciate a follow-up.”