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Some Ross patients were placed in ‘unconventional spaces’ in December

Posted: January 30, 2020

(January 30, 2020)

By: Catherine Whitnall, Kawartha Lakes This Week

Overcrowding at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay meant some patients landed in some “unconventional spaces” last month, officials say.

“A challenge is that we have to keep certain beds open,” said Anne Overhoff, hospital vice-president, patient care and chief nursing officer, noting mental health beds are not equipped with oxygen and space must be available for intensive care and maternity patients.

Christmas and influenza season tends to cause an increase in patients and the hospital does its best to prepare, but it “wasn’t enough this year,” said Overhoff. All of the hospital’s 16 extra beds have been occupied since the middle of December.

“Unfortunately, it meant putting patients in unconventional spaces.”

New Ontario hospital overcrowding data shows the majority of the province’s hospitals have been operating at unsafe levels of overcrowding for more than a month out of the most recent six months measured.

Since 2016, the Ross Memorial’s medical/surgical occupancy rate has been above 100 per cent — in 2018-19 it peaked at 112 per cent — and the total occupancy rate currently sits at 100 per cent.

In July 2018, the hospital declared an internal Code Orange, a designation invoked when hospital operations are severely compromised by patient volume overcapacity, when patient volume hit 126 per cent.

Patients preparing for discharge may find themselves in a hospital dining or lounge area. The emergency department has “hall spaces,” assigned numbers and a nurse. There’s no privacy, but every effort is made to ensure there is no risk to the patient.

After the Code Orange, the hospital received funding from the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) for 12 extra beds.

“But that’s not enough, especially with our Christmas surge and flu season,” said Overhoff.

The hospital is taking advantage of “innovative funded model” opportunities. Eight patients utilizing alternate level of care beds — patients who no longer need hospital care and are waiting placement in more appropriate facilities, such as long-term care — were sent to Extendicare’s Lakeland Village. A Kawartha Lakes Paramedic Services pilot project is helping reduce hospital “bounce back” through follow up house calls.

The hospital’s efforts are keeping the tide at bay, but it’s only a matter of time before the levee breaks, officials there say.

According to Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra, hospitals will remain flooded with patients until the province mops up the mess.

“Far from ‘ending hallway medicine’ the Ford government has adopted the same tired excuses and rhetoric to cover for cuts and downsizing as the previous government while the situation has measurably worsened,” stated Mehra in a press release. “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.”

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