Thunder Bay hospital plagued by 'Code Gridlock'

Despite opening additional beds in other parts of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, gridlock remains a problem.
The incidence of Code Gridlock— when there are no beds left to admit patients — is up sharply this year from last year at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Despite opening additional beds in other parts of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, gridlock remains a problem.

CBC News has obtained data from the hospital pointing to a worsening problem with backlogs.

When all of the alcoves and extra spaces are used, there are about 425 beds available — 50 more than the 375 beds for which the hospital was designed.

The data show Thunder Bay Regional has been is in “Code Gridlock” — when there are no beds left to admit patients — almost twice as many days as it was last year.

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)

Executive vice president Rhonda Crocker Ellacott said the problem started back in January with 15 additional gridlock days — and the trend has continued.

“We had [an] additional seasonal surge that occurred … over the winter term and, now in August … we've seen an early surge of about eight additional gridlock days,” she said. “It is concerning.”

Issue affects 'entire hospital'

CrockerEllacott said when gridlock is called, everybody is affected.

"Essentially it's the entire hospital,” she said.

“Gridlock means there are more than 10 inpatients in the emergency department, it means that we're moving patients into alcoves [and] family lounges … to address the overcapacity challenges."

Crocker Ellacott said hospital visits generally increase in the fall and winter, causing some apprehension about what will happen in the months ahead.

The biggest issue contributing to the problem remains the dozens of patients who are awaiting care elsewhere, she noted, including long-term care facilities and home care.

They are known as "alternate level of care" [ALC] patients. As of Friday,roughly 60 ALC patients were being cared for at the hospital, contributing to the backlog.

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