Montreal

'Why are we flip-flopping this way?': MUHC opens chronic-care beds to ease ER overcrowding

Forced to cut acute-care beds to unforeseen levels to meet a 'spending correction' imposed by Quebec's Health Ministry, the MUHC is now adding 20 chronic-care beds for the summer for patients with nowhere else to go.

Forced to axe acute-care beds for summer to meet budget cuts, MUHC now adds 20 for patients with nowhere to go

Mario Di Carlo, co-chair of the MUHC central users' committee, said he's not convinced 20 new chronic-care beds set up at the MUHC to liberate acute-care beds will end up being a temporary measure. (CBC)

Forced to cut acute-care beds to unforeseen levels to meet a 'spending correction' imposed by Quebec's Health Ministry, the MUHC has now added 20 chronic-care beds for the summer for patients with nowhere else to go.

In an internal memo sent to MUHC staff on April 29, the hospital administration said it was opening a 20-bed temporary unit on the 13th floor of the Montreal General Hospital, "to care for patients who have reached the end-of-active-care at the MUHC."

The chronic-care beds are reserved for patients waiting to be transferred to "a more appropriate institution within the health care network," the memo said – either a long-term care institution (known by its French acronym, CHSLD) or an "intermediate resource," which might include a supervised apartment, rooming house or group home. 

Urgent need to free acute-care beds

The intent is "to liberate the acute care beds that are presently being occupied by these patients," the memo reads.

The hope is that freeing up those beds will ease emergency room overcrowding at the MUHC and at other Montreal hospitals – overcrowding that hospital insiders say is exacerbated by the bed closures forced on the hospital earlier this year.

"It seems like (the Health Ministry) is changing its approach," said Mario Di Carlo, who co-chairs the MUHC Central Users' Committee. "I'm happy they have some contingency to try and help patients, but at the same time, it doesn't seem to be aligned with the MUHC's mandate."

That mandate, Di Carlo stressed, is to help the sickest patients who require the highest level of care and expertise.

"I don't understand why we're flip-flopping this way," he said.

The MUHC memo makes it clear that the government is providing funding for the new chronic care ward for just three months. However, Di Carlo said without an immediate plan to vastly increase the number of chronic care beds outside a hospital setting, he doubts it will end up being a temporary measure.

"I'm not convinced that in two or three months, the community's going to be ready with enough beds to accommodate people that are stabilized at the MUHC and need to leave, to be treated elsewhere," he said.

with files from Sarah Leavitt and Leah Hendry

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