Winnowing down hospital services

The Ontario Health Coalition has raised concerns about a Niagara Health System plan to close  beds at the Welland Hospital.  The beds are housed in a wing of the Welland hospital that includes an “extended care unit” and a “long-term care unit”.  The hospital plans to sell off the license to operate these beds, possibly to a for-profit company.

Niagara health care activist Sue Salzer calls this a surprise move.  “It even goes beyond the devastating cuts in the  NHS ‘Hospital Improvement Plan’.”

The NHS  suggests  that it is one of the few acute-care hospitals that still operate long-term-care beds.  

For the record, most hospitals provide both acute and non-acute services, and some provide long term care services.   NHS provides a whole range of health care services to the community far beyond acute care.   Only half of its in-patients fall into  the ‘acute’ care category.  And many more patients never even see a hospital bed, much less an acute care bed.   Here is NHS' own account of its beds:

Acute (Medical, Surgical, ICU/Cardiac Care, Obstetrics, Paediatrics, Oncology, Palliative, Nephrology, Geriatric Assessment)                                                                                               444

Mental Health (Psychiatric care)                                                                                                 58

Complex Continuing Care                                                                                                        195

Sub-Total Beds (Hospital Services)                                                                                    697

Addiction Services (Detox and Recovery)                                                                                 78

Long Term Care (Residential care for the elderly)                                                                   115

Total Beds (including Addiction & LTC Programs)                                            890       

The hospital also has another 252,512 annual visits to its ambulatory clinics & community programs. 

Selling off long term care sounds like health care fragmentation.  Whatever happened to health care integration?

What's next for the chopping block?  Complex Continuing Care, Addiction Services, Mental Health, Community Programs, Ambulatory Clinics?    

There's no doubt that more services will get the heave-ho if the hospital budget squeeze continues.  

One sign -- Look for the new mantra that hospitals are all and only about acute care. 

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