Months after a plan was announced to free up beds at Thunder Bay's hospital, nearly 70 of its 370 beds are occupied by patients whose treatment in the hospital is finished.

Some of those patients could wind up at the former site of McKellar General Hospital, which has been converted to apartments by a developer said Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre vice president Dr. Mark Henderson

Henderson said the regional hospital was designed to have no more than 14 alternative level of care patients.

"So we are looking - [in anticipation of] another difficult winter, for places outside the hospital where our patients could be well cared for while we make arrangements for further care," he said.

'The CCAC is looking high and low for extra spaces in the community' —Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre vice president Dr. Mark Henderson

Last year, the hospital was in an extended period of gridlock as there were too few beds for the number of acute care patients being admitted.

"We had a very difficult season last year with a lot of patients in the hospital," Henderson said. "The ER can handle them. We can see patients quickly ... we can treat them. It's when they get into the hospital and then we have nowhere for them to go when it's time to leave the hospital. That's our problem."

But Henderson said McKellar Place would be just one part of the solution.

"We've looked at several different places and I would be remiss not to mention that the CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) is looking high and low for extra spaces in the community and is looking at extra ways to support patients in the community with home care," he said.

The Community Care Access Centre said it is currently serving twice as many people compared to last year in the agency's 'Wait at Home' program, where patients leave hospital and are serviced at home until a long term care space opens up.