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For-profit retirement homes not a solution to hospital overcrowding

As noted in a blog earlier this week (on a recommendation to start funding retirement homes), some hospitals started to transfer their hospital patients to retirement homes a couple of years ago as a response to hospital overcrowding.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa was an early adopter of this trick, shipping patients out of the hospital and into a for-profit retirement home. Here’s what happened, with dire consequences for one senior.

Between May 2008 and December 2009, when the trial run ended, Queensway Carleton patients were discharged to a retirement home in the city's southwest. Over 19 months, some $2 million in public funding went to the retirement home to pay for 30 beds and the associated staff to provide care. The money came from the Queensway Carleton and the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), Eastern Ontario's health authority.

A 92-year-old Ottawa woman was transferred from the Queensway Carleton Hospital to the privately run retirement home. She died in September 2008, two months after being transferred to the retirement home.

According to the Chief Coroner, she died in part because of inadequate care there.  The Coroner also warned the practice could put other elderly patients at risk.

The woman suffered from dementia, diabetes-related complications and several other chronic conditions. Almost immediately, the daughter noticed problems, which she documented in detailed notes. Among other things, her mother was fed the wrong food, deprived of regular nursing and physician assessments, given her medication too forcefully and provided with poor pain management. Despite repeated complaints to the retirement home, the daughter watched her mother grow more tired. She didn't eat or drink enough, and she complained about pain. Employees at the home admitted to the daughter that the facility was short-staffed, according to the coroner's report.

Over two weeks at the retirement home, the woman's health steadily worsened, prompting her daughter to draw up a list of complaints that she brought repeatedly to staff at the facility. Her pleas did not appear to improve her mother's care. On July 30, the woman was re-admitted to the Queensway Carleton suffering from low blood pressure, dehydration, malnourishment and pain that had not been properly treated. On Sept. 10, after a week of palliative care, she died in hospital.

The coroner's report did not fault the hospital for the care it provided the woman. But given her already frail condition, the hospital should never have moved the woman in the first place.

"The circumstances surrounding this woman's death should alert health care professionals that, despite pressures to move the frail elderly out of hospitals to other settings it is important to remember that these elderly clients are awaiting long-term care home placement precisely because their care needs are so heavy that they are difficult, if not impossible, to provide in a community, private-care setting," the report stated.

Given all of these problems in Ottawa, it is rather ironic that the recommendation for government funding of retirement homes came out of the Ottawa area. 

dallan@cupe.ca

Comments

  1. Yeah really a nice post to read retirement homes cannot be an option for just making profit.Basically retirement and Co housing societies were started so that Residents actively cooperate to live in a neighborhood in which there is socialization, and mutual support for one another.They cannot be a profit making centers as i I was looking For more information in this regard i visited THORNCLIFFEPLACE (www.thorncliffeplace.com) assisted living ottawa and i found it nice.

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