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Even though it’s temporary, Peterborough Regional Health Centre welcomes new provincial funding for 20 more beds during flu season

Posted: October 25, 2017

(October 25, 2017)

By: Joelle Kovach, The Peterborough Examiner

Peterborough Regional Health Centre plans to use $1.37 million it’s about to receive from the province to add 20 more beds during “surge season” this winter, states a release from the hospital – meaning the money will be spent within a few months.

A press release from PRHC states that the one-time funding will help the hospital fund 20 of the 24 new year-round hospital beds it opened Oct. 16 to cope with a surge in inpatients.

That money is expected to help the hospital between December and March, states the press release – after that, it will be spent.

Still, hospital officials said they were grateful for the help.

“Any additional funding to patient care is always welcome news,” stated Dr. Peter McLaughlin, president and CEO of PRHC, in the release.

He thanked Health Minister Eric Hoskins for the funding, stating that it arrives just as an onslaught of patients is expected.

“This is a timely response to an issue we are seeing at PRHC and across the province,” McLaughlin stated.

The issue is one of increased patient visits, every winter.

The Emergency Room statistics at PRHC tell the story: in the winter of 2016-17, for example, the ER saw 83,000 people; this winter, they’re expecting 90,000.

Meanwhile the press release states that there are about 80 patients who no longer need to be hospitalized but are living at PRHC for lack of long-term care beds.

PRHC has come up with an innovative way to try to offer some of those people a new home: Peterborough Housing Corporation is building a new seniors’ supportive housing complex, in Fleming College’s former McRae Campus building on Bonaccord Street, that’s expected to take 20 of those long-term patients.

McLaughlin stated in the release that the new supportive housing will offer appropriate care for those seniors and also free up 20 beds at the hospital for patients who are acutely ill.

The Peterborough Health Coalition, a group of local health care advocates, says that’s fine – but the province should step in and deal with the problem by offering more long-term-care beds.

In a release, the coalition states that the province has been “utterly refusing” to add long-term care beds – and that leaves people living at PRHC.

Roy Brady, chairman of the coalition, said in an interview on Tuesday that he expects more from the province than one-time funding for the winter.

“It’s temporary – and that’s not good enough,” he said. “The solution has to include long-term care.”

But there was no mention of long-term-care in the province’s plan to get Ontario hospitals through the busy influenza season.

Instead, Hoskins announced funding to open more than 2,000 hospital beds and health-care beds across Ontario this winter to deal with the expected surge of patients.

Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister and Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal told The Examiner on Tuesday he thinks the funding will be good news for Peterborough.

“I wanted to make sure, from the Peterborough perspective, that we don’t do anything to jeopardize the financial framework at PRHC. So I’m very pleased we are going to fund those 20 additional beds, to fight the flu season,” he said.

He also said the hospital, which just a few years ago had Ontario’s largest hospital deficit, has “put itself in a strong financial position” lately.

“We wanted to make sure we can allow them to maintain that strong financial position,” Leal told The Examiner.

But Brady said the hospital’s balanced budget came on the backs of patients. He said Leal should know the province is offering no more than a “band-aid solution” with its temporary funding.

“You need open, funded, staffed beds,” Brady said. “We’ve got to keep this issue going right to the next election.”

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