02/06/2015 04:24 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT

B.C. Nurses Union Calls Prince George Hospital Overcrowding 'Desperate'

"I saw desperation in patients' eyes as I walked by."

The B.C. Nurses Union claims overcrowding at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George has become a desperate situation.

"I saw desperation in patients' eyes as I walked by — or certainly in their families' eyes," union vice-president Christine Sorenson told Daybreak North's Russell Bowers after a recent visit to the facility.

"Patients would look at us as we were walking through with that hope that you were the person that was going to come and provide some sort of care and relief or an answer to their situation in the hallway."

Sorenson said one young man had been held for seven days in a hallway beside the ambulance bay.

"The ambulance and the RCMP brought people in 24 hours a day so he never had any relief, and the lights were never turned off," she said.

"I saw patients in lounges — what was shocking in that situation was there was a commode pushed up right beside the patient's bed, so the patient laying in the lounge had no private place to use a bathroom.

When reached for comment, Northern Health referred the CBC to its action plan, released in December for new beds, new home support services, and new partnerships with community groups.

"Northern Health monitors capacity at the hospital on a daily basis, and calls in additional staff as required based on the patient load," the health authority said an e-mailed statement.

But Sorenson said the solution to overcrowding isn't more beds — it's making more nurses available to treat people outside of hospital.

"​The answer is not always downstream with having more acute-care related beds," she said. "The answer is providing good quality care to people in their homes and in the residential care facilities."

Sorenson said overcrowding isn't unique to Prince George. She has heard stories and seen photos of other hospitals around the province with similar issues.