Acute-care beds at area hospitals are increasingly unavailable, making for cancelled surgeries and longer emergency room wait times.
That’s because an alarming number of seniors are using them who should be in long-term care.
Currently about 3,300 people in the Champlain region are waiting for long-term care beds at home and in hospital.
“When a (long-term care) bed is empty, it’s filled very, very quickly,” said Gilles Lanteigne, CEO of the Community Care Access Centre.
Ottawa hospitals have had an average 98.9% occupancy rate from Dec. 11, 2010 to Feb. 4, 2011. On Wednesday, that number peaked at 104.7% at the Civic hospital and 100.4% at the General.
That’s despite around 1,000 new beds were added in the region since late 2009.
“We haven’t yet seen the long-term benefits because they’re relatively new,” said Champlain Local Health Integration Network CEO Alex Munter.
“A fair number of people — 17 to 18% — in hospital in long-term care are people who should be at home if they had more support,” said Munter.
The problem isn’t confined to the Ottawa area. In Windsor-Essex, hospital occupancy rates have been consistently over 100% and the bed shortage has gotten so bad it’s been declared a crisis.
“The numbers started to elevate back in the October-November timeframe, increasing significantly as months went on,” said Erie St. Clair LHIN spokesperson Ron Sheppard.
The crisis will be monitored and addressed in mid-March, Sheppard said.
In the meantime, Windsor-Essex hospitals are charging long-term care patients $600 a day to stay if they don’t take the first available bed in a long-term care home.
Munter says that strategy isn’t needed in the Ottawa area — for now, at least.
“The goal is to get people home — 80% want to stay at home or go back home.”
There are roughly 7,600 long-term care beds across the region, with 96 more on the way.
“You can build a lot of beds, but you won’t find 100% of the solution,” said Lanteigne.
A permanent solution to a temporary crisis is assisted living, he said, citing the “Home First” approach — a program that started last July.
It gets frail seniors out of the hospital and provides personal home-care support for 60 days, after which they’re reassessed.
Lanteigne said the access centre has received almost 300 referrals — 70 alone in January.
“After 60 days, only four clients have gone from their home to long-term care,” he said.
Long-term care facilities are traditionally filled with more women, Lanteigne said, because they have a longer life expectancy.