Pressure eases on Thunder Bay hospital acute-care beds

The Northwest Community Care Access Centre temporarily gives priority to hospital patients for available long-term care beds

Several patients requiring long-term care moved from Thunder Bay hospital into community

Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre has been squeezed by a lack of hospital beds for patients who need acute care. Community-based solutions are in the works, health officials say. (Wendy Bird/CBC)

The pressure is easing on Thunder Bay Regional Hospital's acute-care beds, now that the Northwest Community Care Access Centre has moved some patients to long-term care facilities.

Last week, the hospital said it was gridlocked, with more than one-fifth of its beds occupied by patients who should have been transferred elsewhere. 

That meant no beds were available for patients needing to be admitted to the hospital, leaving many waiting in the Emergency Department.  

This week, more people were transferred to long-term care facilities in the community -- opening up about 20 beds in the hospital for patients needing acute care.     

"We are trying to provide a little bit of a release valve for the hospital, said Tuija Puiras, chief executive officer with the Northwest Community Care Access Centre.

"It periodically helps things to move on and to improve the flow through the hospital."

Susan Pilatzke, a senior director with the Northwest Local Health Integration Network, says more supportive housing units will house some alternate level of care patients in Thunder Bay. (LHIN)

'They want to go home'

Puiras said this is a crisis response used a few times a year when the hospital requests help to free up acute-care beds.  

But it's only a temporary fix, she said.

Puiras said the Community Care Access Centre is working with the hospital and with the Northwest Local Health Integration Network to develop more permanent solutions.  

"Ultimately what we're trying to look at is where can we increase more spaces for people to go and choices for people to go when they need to be discharged," said Susan Pilatzke, senior director with the Northwest Local Health Integration Network’s Health System Transformation project.

Pilatzke added it's not just about finding more long-term care beds.

She said more supportive housing units opening in Thunder Bay next year will help. 

Pilatzke also emphasized the importance of beefing up home care services.  

"If we talk to anyone ... they want to go home," she said.

"If we're [always] thinking about home [while] planning for that discharge ... [then] all the providers are working together to also say 'okay, let's make sure that person … gets to the place that they need to get to."