Hospital CEO wants 'aggressive' action on bed shortage

The head of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre says overcrowding in the Emergency Department has reached an all-time high.

Long-term care services in Thunder Bay needed to ease bed crunch: Andrée Robichaud

The president and CEO of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre says overcrowding in the Emergency Department has reached an all-time high.

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre president Andrée Robichaud. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Andrée Robichaud said a shortage of community care has led to a critical backlog of patients in the hospital. 

While there is a never-ending flow of patients coming through the front door, Robichaud said the problem actually starts at what she calls the "back door" of the hospital — where dozens of patients can't be discharged because there are no long-term care, home care or rehabilitation spaces for them in the community.

They are known as Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients, because they no longer require acute care. As of Wednesday, ALC patients were occupying 86 of the hospital's beds.

Hospital feeling the loss of long-term care beds in the community

Robichaud said people sometimes ask why the hospital doesn't just open up more beds. But that's not the solution, she said.

"We don't need more beds here. And I know that's sometimes confusing for people," Robichaud explained.

"If tomorrow morning we could find community care for all the people that we need, we'd have 86 beds that would open up.  And then we would be fine. We need to advocate for more community care."

Robichaud said the hospital is feeling the impact of last fall's closure of the Interim Long-Term Care Centre in Thunder Bay. She said that eliminated 65 long-term care spaces in the community.

At the same time, 27 patients in the Emergency Department had been admitted, but were waiting for beds. Another 17 patients were waiting on stretchers in alcoves and in other spaces on wards.

Robichaud said it's time for aggressive solutions, as the gridlock may only worsen. 

"I've been here 2.5 years [and] we're at an all-time high," she said.

On Wednesday, the hospital had an emergency meeting with Local Health Integration Network officials and called on them to build more community care capacity for patients — and soon.

The congestion has prompted the hospital to call in Thunder Bay Fire Service for consultation as they want to prevent any fire code violations.

Robichaud said, as a result, she has assigned a staff member to patrol the halls every 20 minutes to make sure hallways and fire routes are clear.