'Patient flow' expert hired to fix Sudbury's overcrowded hospitals

Sudbury’s overcrowded hospitals will be getting some help from a former nurse who has worked in emergency rooms across the world.

Former ER nurse recently helped Toronto's hospitals reduce number of ALC patients in emergency rooms

Elaine Burr has been hired by the Northeast LHIN to help reduce the number of ALC patients at Health Sciences North. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Sudbury's overcrowded hospitals will be getting some help from a former nurse who has practiced in emergency rooms across the world.

Elaine Burr has been hired by the Northeast Local Health Integration Network as a patient flow lead for the LHIN.

Burr brings a host of international experience to the job — she worked as an ER nurse in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Britain, ran a trauma centre in Dubai, and most recently served as patient flow lead with Toronto hospitals to develop systems that reduce the number of senior patients clogging up emergency rooms.

Last week, Health Sciences North announced it was over-capacity for most of 2016-17, contributing to a $7 million deficit. Officials at the hospital attribute the overcrowding to the number of ALC, or alternative level of care, patients.

The province defines ALC as "when a patient is occupying a bed in a hospital and does not require the intensity of resources/services provided in this care setting (acute, complex continuing care [CCC], mental health or rehabilitation."

Burr says part of the solution is identifying patients who might become ALC by looking for certain factors.

"We would screen them differently," she said. "We would be more upstream, more aggressive, more proactive."

"It's very early in someone's admission saying 'oh boy, you've got this, this, and's going to be very challenging to find the right place for you or getting you to the right place of care."
Officials with Health Sciences North said its recent $7 million deficit can be attributed partly to overcrowding at the site. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Burr also said that Toronto hospitals—  they have 17 in the Toronto LHIN— are more assertive in their messaging to patients.

"[They say] 'you will receive acute care here, but post-acute care will be somewhere else," she said.

Burr says Health Sciences North has been very receptive to the work she's been doing, and notes that this is a long-term process.