Special care homes offer to help ease hospital congestion

Special care home operators say they could be doing more to ease overcrowding in hospitals.

More than 800 beds area available in 400 facilities scattered throughout New Brunswick

Special care home operators believe they can help ease hospital congestion. 1:59

Special care home operators say they could be doing more to ease overcrowding in hospitals.

There are more than 800 vacant beds in special care homes and their operators say they can't understand why they're being overlooked as a way to help ease "overcapacity gridlock" that Horizon Health Network physicians are complaining about.

"It's a very affordable service and we have 400 special care homes," said Jan Seely, executive director of the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association.

"Some of them only have three clients living in them. And some of them have 100. But they're in every corner of New Brunswick," she says.

Jan Seely says there are 800 vacant beds in special care homes around the province that could be used to ease congestion in hospitals. (CBC)
New Brunswick special care homes already serve more than 2,000 seniors at a cost of $77 a day, which is about one-third the cost of a nursing home bed.

Seely says there must be more than special care homes can do to ease congestion in hospitals.

"Somebody that needs a walker, somebody that needs assistance in the bath, someone that needs their medications given, they need to know that somebody's going to be there for them 24 hours a day, which we are."

On Tuesday, the presidents of the medical staffs at Horizon's five acute care hospitals made public a letter they had written to government and Horizon officials in which they made a series of recommendations on things that could be done to ease hospital congestion.

Making use of vacant beds in special care homes is not among their recommendations.

Dr. Ben Hoyt says 41 surgeries have been cancelled at the hospital in Fredericton because no beds were available. (Alan White / CBC)
Dr. Ben Hoyt, the chief surgeon at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton, said special care homes have a place in the system.

But he said they aren't really equipped to deal with patients in hospital who are waiting to be placed in nursing homes or other alternate levels of care.

"Everyone in the system, in our system, feels we need nursing home beds, including the geriatricians and the family docs and the patients that we speak with," said Hoyt.

"These patients, the care demands that they have, are too heavy for a special care home."

Hoyt says overcrowding has forced the Fredericton hospital to cancel 42 surgeries since Jan. 1.

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