Saskatchewan

Reginans could be sent out of city to wait for long-term care

By July some people in Regina needing long-term care could spend weeks waiting in a bed outside the city until a spot in Regina opens up. The Regina-Qu'Appelle Health Region says patients could go up to 150 kilometres away from Regina General Hospital, under its "first available bed" protocol.

Waits in urban acute care hospital beds nixed

By July, Reginans needing long-term care may be sent to facilities up to 150 km away while they wait for a bed in the city. (CBC)

By July some people in Regina needing long-term care could spend weeks waiting in a bed outside the city until a spot in Regina opens up.

The Regina-Qu'Appelle Health Region says patients could go up to 150 kilometres away from Regina General Hospital, under its "first available bed" protocol.

Until now, some have stayed in acute care hospital beds while waiting for a long-term care bed in Regina. However, for the past dozen years rural patients awaiting long-term care could be placed up to 150 kilometres from their home hospital.

The Opposition NDP calls the extension of the placement protocol to Regina a "step in the wrong direction".

"The fact is, when you move into long-term care you're not in the best shape. Usually you have physical issues, and dementia may be a problem," said MLA Danielle Chartier, Opposition critics for health and seniors. "So moving someone who has dementia far away from home, even if it's just for a few weeks, is problematic."

Rural if necessary, but not necessarily rural

The health region said other options while waiting for long-term care include home care and privately-operated personal care homes. Plus, it suggested families could supplement home care or a stay in a personal care home with services purchased from a private agency.

"I can tell you there's many families (for whom) purchasing private care is not an option for them. Financially it's just not viable," Chartier responded.

She said the provincial government needs to beef up public-sector home care services, and put long-term care beds where they are needed. 

Implementation delayed

The health region had considered extending its "first available bed" protocol to Regina back in the fall of 2013. The region's executive director of continuing care, programming & utilization, Gretta Lynn Ell, said the implementation was put off while more groundwork was done. For instance, developing colour brochures of the out-of-city facilities.

"We've always believed that this is the right thing to do," Ell said.

Still, Chartier is not persuaded.

"Other regions do it, but that doesn't make it a good policy," Chartier commented.

However, the Saskatchewan Party government argued health regions first started implementing the protocol when the NDP was in power.