Seniors and others who need to go to a personal care home may face a long wait in hospital first, says Progressive Conservative health critic Myrna Driedger.
And a lack of personal care home beds and home care cuts are putting pressure on those who care for elderly loved ones, Driedger says.
“What we’re seeing is more families are being forced to care for a family member at home,” Driedger said during an interview with the Brandon Sun this week.
The provincial NDP government has cut $17 million in funding from long-term care and home care at a time when the population is aging, Driedger said.
“It looks what they are going to do is to expect families to pick up the slack,” Driedger said, adding that people are languishing in hospital as they await beds at personal care homes.
The province, on the other hand, says there is no cut and the NDP government has dedicated $17 million toward the funding of personal care homes so patients are transferred from hospitals to homes faster.
She said home care workers in Winnipeg have said the amount of time they spend with families has been cut significantly.
And, there are many patients in the province who are stuck in hospital because there aren’t enough personal care home beds, she said.
“Our hospitals are filled,” Driedger said.
Seniors, for example, can wind up in hospital due to medical problems. Their condition is then treated but they can no longer live in their own home and need to go to a personal care home.
In Winnipeg, Driedger said, there are 100 people who are in hospital waiting for space at a personal care home.
Their stay in hospital uses acute care beds, Driedger said, which puts a strain on emergency rooms because patients who arrive at ER can’t be placed in those beds.
Surgeries get cancelled as a result, Driedger added.
To make her point, Driedger supplied statistics which her party secured by making freedom of information requests.
Numbers secured from the Brandon RHA show that, as of April 30, there were 27 people in hospital awaiting placement in a personal care home.
One had been waiting for 425 days and another for 109 days. Thirteen of those patients have been waiting for more than a month.
Further Brandon RHA data confirms that acute care beds have been occupied by people seeking personal care home beds.
As of April 1, there were 40 people in the former Assiniboine RHA area waiting for personal care home beds.
Others, such as the elderly, are waiting at home for spots as they’re cared for by loved ones, Driedger said.
She said the government needs to boost the number of personal care home spots to address the problem.
“Things are going to start to hit the wall at some point,” Driedger said. “If the services aren’t there, patients are going to be falling through the cracks.”
The province and officials with the recently merged Brandon RHA and Assiniboine RHA disagree.
A provincial spokesperson indicated that home care funding and long-term care funding has been increased, while $24 million has been dedicated to new measures intended to free hospital beds.
Besides the $17 million that is to go to personal care home funding to help patients transfer from hospital to homes faster, another $7 million is dedicated to new initiatives intended to help patients stay at home longer.
In addition, the province will spend $200 million to create hundreds more personal care home beds over the next 10 years.
In Brandon, home care for evenings and weekends has been expanded to allow for a quicker discharge from hospital for those needing home care.
Meanwhile, the former CEOs of the Brandon and Assiniboine RHAs say they’re not aware of any cuts to long-term care or home care.
Former ARHA CEO Penny Gilson, who is now CEO of the amalgamated Western RHA, said it has been common for a certain number of patients to wait in hospital for personal care home beds — due to their health, it’s unsafe for them at home so they wait in hospital.
In the former Assiniboine region, there are communities where non-acute care beds are available for people awaiting placement in a home.
The rate of turnover for personal care homes varies year to year, Gilson said. In general, the homes are occupied at a rate of 98 to 99 per cent capacity.
“There’s always a need for personal care home beds,” Gilson said. “But, would I say that need is exceeding supply right now? No.”
There are also other supports in place such as group living for seniors, supportive housing and home care.
Former Brandon RHA CEO Brian Schoonbaert said there are 26 beds at the Brandon hospital dedicated to people who are awaiting a personal care home spot.
The number of those waiting goes up and down and those beds aren’t always full.
Currently, there are probably more people waiting to move into a personal care home than there are places, Schoonbaert said, but about 18 months ago it was tough to find someone who needed to go to a personal care home.
As for the person who had been waiting for 425 days, he or she may have been approved for a personal care home but needed to remain in hospital because of their condition.
The Brandon area has received extra funding for personal care home staff, Schoonbaert added.
He said that those waiting to go into a home have been known to take an acute care bed, but to his knowledge no surgeries have been cancelled as a result.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 16, 2012