TRURO - Health officials have to be creative in finding solutions to hospital bed crowding, even if that means working outside of current regulations, a local MLA says.
"Let's use existing resources and let's not be hung up on the old regulations or what the old criteria is," Colchester North MLA Karen Casey said, regarding news that the Colchester Regional Hospital currently has no patient beds available.
Of the 102 in-patient beds at the hospital, 35 are being used by individuals who are waiting to be placed into long-term care facilities.
Across the province, there are currently 2,250 hospital patients who are facing similar circumstances because there are not enough publicly supported nursing home beds available to meet demand.
"That's huge," Casey said. And given the uniqueness of the situation here she said it is time for the government to look at all possible resources to help alleviate hospital crowding and to provide seniors with the most appropriate care for their individual situations.
"We're not a rich province and Nova Scotians, many seniors, are not rich. So I think, rather than invest a whole lot of new money in something, let's look at the resources we have."
The NDP government has committed an additional $22 million this year towards home-care initiatives, but given that not all seniors who are ready to be discharged from hospital may be ready to go home, Casey suggested finding ways to provide additional support.
In that regard, Casey said local health officials might want to look into a pilot project currently underway in the Capital Health District that provides intensive home care for those who are not ready to return to their own homes without additional support.
"I don't know how many of those 35 that are waiting could go back into their own home if they have that intensive home care support," she said. "So, my suggestion would be, let's look at that pilot in Halifax, let's see if it's working and let's see if we can free up some of those beds by providing that intense home care."
Another option, she said, is for government to consider using the services of private care facilities, even on a temporary basis, if necessary, to help deal with hospital overcrowding.
Two such facilities, the Brentwood Ponds in Brentwood and Val's Resthome in Hilden, currently have 10 beds between them that could be used for existing hospital patients if the government would recognize them as viable possibilities. Additional beds may also be available at other facilities.
"Why not use those spaces with that intensive home care to house these people so that they aren't taking up a bed in the hospital."
That would place the seniors in a more comfortable setting while providing the health care they need and also freeing up badly needed bed space, Casey said.
"It's patient mobility and it's a way to move some of those patients out of those 35 beds. Let the hospital do what they do best and that's deal with people who are ill, and have an alternative for those who can't go back home with the level of support that they would get from regular home care or even with intensive," she said.
"Could we not sit down and talk about the facilities we have, the resources we have, what additional services might be made available to those patients and get that patient flow moving so we can help everybody?"