10/29/10

Erie St. Clair LHIN gives hospitals more funding to deal with high bed occupancy

Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor has received funding for an additional 14 beds to handle patients who no longer require acute care.   A separate unit will be set up where so-called alternative level of care, or ALC, patients can be treated.

The initiative was approved by the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). Pat Somers, Hotel-Dieu's vice-president of operations and chief nursing executive, said the new beds will be in place by January 2011 and remain at the hospital for at least a year.

"We certainly welcome this help, but it's in no way going to solve our ALC issue," she said, noting that on Wednesday alone, 67 ALC patients were occupying acute care beds at Hotel-Dieu.

Overall occupancy has been 99 per cent and at least three elective surgeries were cancelled due to a lack of beds.

Leamington District Memorial Hospital, in the same LHIN, also received funding from the LHIN for 10 specially designated ALC patient beds.

Earlier this week, the same LHIN urged Bluewater Health hospital to ensure that the emergency room at its small hospital facility in Petrolia remain open 24/7. A LHIN panel recommended the establishment of an area doctors' network to cover shifts at hospitals in need, with bonuses offered.  Bluewater has accepted the LHIN's recommendation and will report back with a status update in two weeks.

In the Waterloo Wellington LHIN, a 35-bed temporary long-term care ward could be opened by mid-January on a vacant floor of Cambridge Memorial Hospital, to ease the hospital's bed crunch.  (Although the service will, apparently, be contracted out to another provider.)   The province has also approved plans to open up another six hospital mental health beds at the hospital.

Some have wondered if these are early signs that the Liberal government is turning away from hospital cutbacks in the lead up to the 2011 election, now less than a year away. 

If so, they have a ways to go.  About 50 community members attended the LHIN meeting at the Lions Hall in Petrolia concerning their local hospital.  Some were unimpressed.  "Nothing meaningful came out of this meeting," said spectator Martha Szabo.  Pat Stonehouse, another local resident, called the LHIN ineffective.

Time will tell, if these changes are a flash in there pan, or part of a change in government emphasis in the lead up to the election.


 dallan@cupe.ca

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