New beds to open at GBHS

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Grey Bruce Health Services is expected to gain 10 new beds later this year at the expense of hospital beds in Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and St. Thomas.

The South West LHIN is realigning some complex continuing care beds throughout its region in the coming months.

"It's taking existing resources from a community where the capacity is not needed and moving it to an area where the capacity is needed, and the beneficiary is Grey-Bruce," said LHIN CEO Michael Barrett.

The LHIN board is expected to approve the recommendation at its June meeting later this month.

The beds are for patients who've been acutely ill in hospital with a chronic condition and are too sick to go home, into rehab or restorative care, or possibly even into long-term care. The beds are sometimes compared to what was once commonly known as chronic care beds, but that's a misnomer, said GBHS president and CEO Maureen Solecki.

She said most hospitals have moved away from the chronic care concept in recent years, which implies the patient never leaves hospital. The idea, she said, is to get them out of hospital to a point where they can manage at home with support, or in long term care for awhile.

"If we send them home, they'll be right back again. So what we want to do is spend some time with them getting them to a higher level of wellness and managing of their illness, so when they do go home, they can stay home for longer," Solecki said.

The patients won't be cured, but their conditions will be better managed.

She said about 1% of those patients will stay in the complex care beds for the remainder of their lives. The new beds will be in high demand, with an expected occupancy rate of about 93%.

Until now, those patients may have been taking up an acute care bed for long periods of time, or sent home "but coming back to us very quickly," Solecki said. "They may be in long term care, but they may not need to be in long term care if we could have them in this setting and work with them more aggressively to see whether they could be in a supported environment in their home. So they're here, these conditions are here, we're just managing them in a different way now."

It's not yet known if the new beds will all be located at the Owen Sound hospital, but they will all be going to GBHS, which has six hospital sites, Solecki said. It's also premature to talk about staffing and other logistics, she added.

The addition of the beds is a far cry from a decade or two ago, when local hospital beds were regularly diminishing.

But Solecki cautioned that hospital care is not so much measured any more by how many beds it has.

"I know people get very worried when they hear about beds going down," she said. "Obviously we like to see beds going up, but I think it's a measure that's less relevant to us as we go forward in terms of the amount of care we provide."

Hospitals provide more ambulatory care now, serving more patients than ever before, but not serving as many of them in traditional hospital beds.

The radical changes, Solecki said, are "a result of making sure that we're getting people into the right place and that they're getting that specific care that they need, and that we can be more precise with what we're doing to prevent readmission, to maintain people in their home environment . . . It's really to make sure that people are getting access to care in the place that they need it most."

She called the new beds positive news for Grey-Bruce.

"I think it will be very positive for this very specific group of patients who can really benefit from this care."

Complex continuing care will consist of more than just beds. The care also typically utilizes teams made up of RNs, RPNs, PSWs, physical therapists, occupational and speech therapists, nurse practitioners, dietitians and social workers.

The LHIN's Barrett also said the draft report before the board calls for GBHS to get two more rehab beds, which would drive the number to 18, up from 16.

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