A homeless woman has spent close to 500 days in a Vancouver Island hospital, at a cost of $700,000 to the taxpayer, because there is no other facility to care for her.

The middle-aged woman was suffering from a brain injury and mental health issues when she was admitted a year and a half ago.

The woman's doctor, Anthony Lane, says staying in an acute care bed in the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for so long has taken its toll on his patient.

"You're in a ward all the time, walking up and down. There's very little socialization. It's not fair to the patient. To me, it's inhumane, actually."

Lane hopes to expose similar cases in the hospital and what he calls a lack of planning for these patients in the long term.

No residential care facility

The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) agrees the woman should be in a specialized care facility that would be a fraction of the cost, but there isn't one in the Mid Island region.

"There is no one service within the health authority that has all of the components that we need to meet her complex continuing care needs, so we need to ensure that we are providing care that is safe," said spokesperson Shannon Marshall.

VIHA's Colleen Butcher added that there are six other patients in a similar position and officials are trying to find a solution in this case.

"We're developing a plan of where she'll go … and I’m not saying we'll solve it in the short term. It may take longer to find appropriate placement for her," said Butcher.

In a statement, the B.C. Ministry of Health Services said it recognized that some patients with multiple complex issues were difficult to place in an appropriate setting and, while acute care isn't ideal, it does ensure that these patients are safely cared for.

Last year, the family of John Gaffney spoke out about the same issue.

The 46 year old, who has Down syndrome and now Alzheimer’s, spent several months in acute care at Vancouver General Hospital.