Regional hospital feeling the pressure

Darrell Cole
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31 of 35 medical beds filled by long-term care, palliative patients

An upsurge in patients at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre has left officials struggling to find beds to meet the demand. Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News

AMHERST – There’s no room at the inn.

Officials with the Cumberland Health Authority are dealing with a very “stressful” situation at the area’s regional hospital where almost all the medical beds are being used by patients awaiting placement in alternate level care.

“The problems that our emergency room at the regional site are experiencing are not unique to Cumberland County,” health authority CEO Bruce Quigley said. “Similar problems are being felt across the province.”

Quigley said on Monday there were 10 patients awaiting admission to the hospital, but there are no beds available. The hospital, he said, has opened up extra beds to handle the demand and staff are coping.

“Of the 35 beds in the medical unit, 31 are occupied by patients awaiting placement or palliative care. We only have four acute-care patients in that unit,” Quigley said. “It’s a very stressful situation for the patients and for the service providers and one we’re working diligently to overcome. We’re trying to do what we can.”

Quigley said at one time last week, the hospital’s ambulatory care unit was used for four patients.

“It’s not an optimal situation to have patients in the corridor of the emergency room. We recognize that and we’re working as diligently as possible with our health-care partners to work our way through this,” Quigley said.

The province has come under heat from both opposition parties for refusing to build more long-term care facilities. Last week, Conservative Health critic Chris d’Entremont said the government is failing to address one of the root causes of widespread ER closures.

“Hospitals are struggling to keep beds open for emergency or inpatient care because of the incredibly high number of long-term care patients waiting in hospitals for placement,” d’Entremont said. “Our seniors deserve better treatment than they’re getting from the NDP.”

He said in September 2012, the wait list for a long-term care bed was 2,228 – a 50 per cent increase since 2009.

Instead, the province is placing more emphasis on home care services, including a recent $22-million investment to improve and expand home care services. Part of that is providing $2 million to health authorities to develop supports for seniors and low-income individuals who can’t fulfill the activities of daily living.

Quigley agrees that long-term care institutions are not the only answer.

“We recognize the real pressures quite frankly are not going to be alleviated by building a few hundred more long-term care beds,” he said. “That’s not going to solve the problem.  We need to change the current mindset of the public that time in a hospital and ultimately placement in a nursing home are the only recourse for those who need extra help.”

The  change in thinking needs to focus on providing more options to keep people at home, he said. That can be accomplished by continuing care co-ordinators working with patients and their families to access all the home-care options that are available.

“Some of those could be as simple was shoveling driveways and getting groceries or making alterations to your home so you can get out of bed and into the bathroom and look after the day to day functions without having to go into a hospital or nursing home,” he said.

Organizations: Cumberland Health Authority, NDP

Geographic location: Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • peter
    January 17, 2013 - 12:51

    This is a regional hospital for the whole county. Approx 35000 people to be serviced with only 35 beds. One bed per thousand people. Did they not think when they built this hospital that the population was aging. The old hospital had nearly 60 beds at one time. Now what?

  • Alan
    January 17, 2013 - 11:56

    As one of the people who spent several nights in that emergency corridor last week, I'd like to point out that the staff there are making the best of a bad situation. This is not easy for anyone but I commend the nurses there for finding ways to help people cope with the circumstances.

  • My Views and Observations
    January 17, 2013 - 08:56

    I have a family member on the medical unit and spend time at the hospital. The number of patients that i have seen with mental issues (Dementia) are many. These people need more than just a driveway shoveled or getting groceries. My family member has a wander guard on her wrist as does many others that are mobile. That means they have to be monitored at all times. The ones that are not mobile just yell help me... to whoever only because they want company, and are lonely. It's sad and unfortunate that this happens to our elders, but it does happen. The issue that bothers me is the number of mild/severely psychotic patients that need a proper living facility. God love them.... A family member just can not physically care for them properly anymore OR get kicked out of where they were placed, and the staff (Sunset is one place I've heard mentioned...but there are more), refuse to take back, and the hospital end up with these people. Once they are in hospital, it takes six months or more before these people find proper living facilities. This news article skirts around any mention of the mental health issue which in my opinion should have been made a priority years ago. It's just not right, the way things are at present. The place looks more like a Psych/Geri ward and not an actively acute care unit. Those nurses run off their feet sometimes looking for a patient who is roaming into another patients room. This takes away from the time they have to spend on others that may need more immediate help. IMHO....Nova Scotia needs more Mental Health facilities, and that should/can not be forgotten.

  • first last
    January 16, 2013 - 21:52

    The triage team should be able to order routine xrays for at least the obvious cases, as well as blood work and urinalysis. Some facilities they even start pain management at triage. Research has shown that patients in the hallways of inpatient units do better than in the hallway of the ER. -PubMed, search: "boarding patients". All that money saved by not having a Dr. on at night in CEC facilities needs to be moved to the CRHCC as was promised, to have an extra Dr. in the ER, as well as nurses and beds. RN's, RT's and other licensed professionals should be allowed to practice to their full potential, freeing up physician's time and allowing faster care. Dr's should not have to have a face-to-face meeting with the patient in order to be paid: phone calls, emails, videoconferencing would be more efficient and much easier on mobility challenged patients.

  • Dave
    January 16, 2013 - 20:52

    It is good to see Dexter and the NDP have everything under control. Last year my Dad took a heart attack about this time of the year. He was airlifted to Halifax after 13 days he was able to come back to Amherst hospital.However there was no room so he had to stay in Halifax for another week. It is good to see under the NDP government is making things better,GO NDP "PLEASE"!!! This comment is to the news paper.I had 3 people look at 4 of your validations and none of us could read them.We are just trying to post things in the paper.