‘Our health centre can no longer operate beyond the capacities for which we are designed and funded, says North Bay official
Hospitals operating over capacity – report
Posted: January 26, 2020
The first six months of 2019 saw the North Bay Regional Health Centre’s acute care beds at over capacity for a total of 24 days, numbers released by the hospital show.
In an email to The Nugget, hospital spokesperson Lindsay Smylie Smith said the average occupancy rate for acute care, complex care and rehabilitation services was 94.4 per cent from January to June 2019.
During the same six-month period, the hospital had 1,113 patients who were a no-bed admission in the emergency department, a situation where a person requires admission to the hospital but there are no suitable beds available at the time.
The Nugget requested the figures following a CBC report this week on overcrowding, or so-called “hallway medicine,” at Ontario’s acute-care hospitals.
The hospitals which made the Top 3 for most days at more than 100 per cent capacity, between January and June 2019, were Richmond Hill at 179 days, Peterborough Regional at 176 and Greater Niagara at 176.
“The North Bay Regional Health Centre has been very vocal about the constant and sustained bed pressures our organization has been facing for more than two years,” Smith said.
The hospital is unique, she said, in that it provides acute-care services to North Bay and surrounding communities, is a district referral centre providing specialist services for smaller communities, and is the specialized mental health service provider serving all of northeast Ontario.
“When combined, our numbers might not tell the whole story of what we are experiencing.”
The CBC report has prompted responses from groups such as the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions whose president, Michael Hurley, stated this week that the province’s “overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded” hospitals are severely disadvantaged during global outbreaks such as the most recent spread of coronavirus in China. To date, there have been no confirmed cases in Canada.
The City of Brampton declared a health-care emergency following the report’s release.
The Ontario Health Coalition, meanwhile, released a statement saying the data should “spark outrage,” with executive director Natalie Mehra arguing that too little is being done to address the suffering of patients who cannot access care.
“This is not a partisan issue. It is unsound public policy that has created a crisis in patient care that must be addressed urgently by reopening closed beds and wards, reopening operating rooms that are closed because there is not enough funding for them, and restore funding to improve care,” she said.
Smith said the team responsible for bed management in North Bay works hard every day to ensure patients receive the care they need, in the appropriate bed and in a timely manner.
She added that the numbers reflect the proactive measures the organization has put into place to help manage patient flow, including changing bed configurations to maximize bed flexibility and maintain infection control, creating a 15-bed transitional unit for patients awaiting long-term care placement, and “unique partnerships to support patients in the community who no longer require the level of specialized care they receive at our hospital, but are not able to access care outside of our walls.”
The hospital also receives temporary, non-annualized funding to open temporary beds.
“Our patients receive incredible care under challenging circumstances from our amazing staff, physicians, allied health and support services, but sometimes we have to provide care for our patients in non-traditional spaces, putting strain on every face of our health centre,” Smith admitted.
“Our hospital board and senior leaders have advocated with our provincial government to share how, as an organization, we have worked very hard to find every possible efficiency and that our health centre can no longer operate beyond the capacities for which we are designed and funded.”