The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre said it's doing everything it can to free up beds.

Hospital executive vice-president of chronic disease prevention and management Dr. Mark Henderson said about 60 patients are currently waiting to be transferred to long-term care, rehabilitation or home care.      

He noted it's a serious issue, not only because new patients can't be admitted from the emergency department until a bed becomes available, but also because people waiting to be discharged aren't getting the kind of care they need.

"They're getting good care, I mean we have good nurses here and good allied health professionals [such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, etc.]," Henderson said.

"But this is not a rehab hospital and it's not a chronic care facility. So some of our patients would be better off at St. Joseph's Hospital or in a nursing home."


Dr. Mark Henderson said about 60 patients at Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre are currently waiting to be transferred to long-term care, rehabilitation or home care. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

'Disappointing ... we're in gridlock'

Henderson says more long-term care facilities and more home care are needed in Thunder Bay to solve the problem. 

In the meantime, he says, hospital staff meet daily to discuss which - if any - patients can be discharged.

Henderson said, as a health-care provider, this is a difficult situation.

"It's disappointing when we're in gridlock and we have patients in alcoves and in treatment rooms, which is not the best place for them," he said.

"Patients are usually very gracious to us and to the staff when we are placed in these difficult circumstances. And I think we have to emphasize that the nursing staff and the other allied professionals do a wonderful job under extremely difficult circumstances."

While the bed backlog problem shows up in the hospital, it is largely caused by factors outside the hospital's control, Henderson said. Factors include a shortage of services in the community, such as long-term care, rehabilitation and home care. 

The hospital is working closely with St. Joseph's Hospital, the Northwest Local Health Integration Network and the Community Care Access Centre to address this broader issue, he added.