For the first time in months, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has cancelled some elective surgeries due to gridlock.

The cancellations took place last week, after three weeks of ongoing gridlock — a situation where there are no beds for patients waiting for admission.

Rhonda Crocker Ellacott

Rhonda Crocker Ellacott, executive vice president at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, estimates close to 30 patients were waiting in the Emergency department on Wednesday for beds in the hospital. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The hospital is funded for only 386 beds but is now using 440.

Vice-president and chief nursing executive Rhonda Crocker Ellacott said the number of patients taking up beds while waiting for alternate care outside the hospital continues to rise.

And that's putting a strain on available space for acute-care patients.

'Significant period of overcapacity'

“For example, we have our treatment rooms full and our alternate-level-of-care beds that we're running in surgical daycare full, and our patient lounge is full,” Crocker Ellacott said, adding that temporary beds and stretchers have pushed patients into hallways.

“This seems [to be an excessive] period of time to be in gridlock. We actually had to try to cancel three elective surgical patients and we haven't done that for almost a year, so this is a significant period of overcapacity.”

Despite all those measures, the hospital still had 20 people waiting in the emergency room to be admitted to a bed on Friday afternoon.

Crocker Ellacott said there are no specific seasonal patterns of illness that would explain the current overcapacity, but noted the work to find solutions continues.

"We’re all coming together and working together on a system solution to deal with this constant overcapacity need that we find ourselves in,” she said.

Two years ago, on average, 39 people were waiting, in-hospital, for placement outside the hospital. On Friday, that number was 64.

Examples of outside hospital care include long-term care, supportive housing, and homecare.