2/16/11

Windsor Essex hospital bed crisis declared

The Windsor Star reports that the Erie-St. Clair Local Health Integration Network has officially declared a crisis in Windsor and Essex County to deal with overcrowded hospitals, lengthy emergency room waits and cancelled surgeries.


"It is desperately needed at this moment," said Windsor Regional Hospital president and CEO David Musyj of the crisis designation. "We have to look at the whole system. For the whole system not to grind to a halt, we have no other option but to do this."


The crisis designation will help move patients from hospitals to LTC facilities, but few hospital beds will be emptied as a result; there are only six long-term care beds available throughout the city and county."Every bed is important," Musyj said. "If there are six beds available in the community, that's six less surgeries that need to be cancelled."


Ron Sheppard, spokesperson for the Erie-St. Clair LHIN, said it's unclear how long the crisis designation will last. "It all depends on how quickly they're able to stabilize the system," he said. "I know it'll take some time."
Musyj said he suspects it'll be in effect until a new, 256-bed LTC home opens at the former Grace Hospital site. That could take up to two years, he said.


The area's three hospitals have also instituted a first available bed policy, which requires patients who are offered a LTC bed to accept it -or face a $600 per day fee to remain at the hospital. Patients forced to accept the first available bed will likely pay up to $60 per day in a LTC facility and will continue to hold their place on the waiting list at their preferred LTC home.


Emergency room patients who need acute care beds can't be transferred because the beds are already occupied. The backup at emergency rooms means paramedics are sometimes unable to drop off patients, resulting in fewer ambulances on the road to respond to other calls.


Hospitals are also forced to cancel elective surgeries because of the lack of beds. Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital cancelled about 137 surgeries over the past six months and WRH cancelled 28 since last August.
Occupancy rates have hovered above 100 per cent in recent weeks at the region's three hospitals, with WRH maintaining an average of about 104 per cent. "If that happened on a periodic basis, that's one thing, but when it's sustained on a long-term basis, it's very difficult," Musyj said. "It's hard for our staff. We cannot sustain that."

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