“They don’t have room. They don’t have beds,” Fernanda Frabotta said as she waited at the foot of her 97-year-old mother’s bed parked in a hallway at Windsor Regional Hospital. “We have no choice but to wait.”
Frabotta brought her mother to the hospital’s Met campus emergency room Thursday for a blood transfusion but a bed shortage left them waiting for more than two hours already.
Another four patients were lined up in beds along the wall behind them.
The ongoing shortage of acute care beds in Windsor forced dozens of patients to wait in the emergency room at Windsor Regional on Thursday and threatened to cancel elective surgeries.
Twenty-two patients were on hold in the emergency room waiting to be admitted to acutecare beds.
“It’s been the worst we’ve seen it for the last year,” said Windsor Regional president David Musyj.
“It’s been building up to this. I don’t see much relief on the short-term horizon,” he said, adding that there tends to be more emergency room visits this time of year because of illnesses like the flu and respiratory problems.
Musyj said patients could face longer emergency room waits but that staff are doing “everything they can” to ensure timely responses to emergencies.
“It’s not (the staff ‘s) fault that they’re facing these problems,” he said.
The bed shortage and backlog stems partly from seasonal trends but also from alternative level of care patients at the hospital – people who are occupying acute-care beds because they cannot find a long-term care bed in a nursing home.
The most recent count showed 91 ALC patients in the hospital out of 475 acute care and complex care beds. The hospital can function well with about half that number of ALC patients, Musyj said.
The number of ALC patients has been “consistently high” for the past six or eight months, he added.
“When you have 91 patients that technically don’t have to be in acute care beds and you have 22 waiting for an acute care bed; it’s easy to do the math,” he said, adding that building more longterm care facilities in Windsor could ease the problem.
As of Thursday afternoon, the hospital was running at 104 per cent capacity. No elective surgeries had been cancelled but Musyj warned it could happen if the situation deteriorates.
Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital is currently operating at 104 per cent capacity, spokesman Steve Erwin said. A dozen patients were waiting to be admitted to acute care and the hospital was keeping an eye on the situation at Windsor Regional. Hotel-Dieu currently has 31 ALC patients.
In August, the Local Health Integration Network began interviewing patients, families and hospital staff in the region in an effort to address the problem of overcrowding and backlogs in hospitals.
“We need more long-term care beds,” said Betty Kuchta, CEO of the Erie and St. Clair Community Care Access Centre, which helps people find in-home or community-based care.
There are 1,300 individuals on waiting lists for long-term care beds, she said. “We’re really anxious for the new 256bed facility to be built,” Kuchta said, referring to plans for construction of a new long-term care complex in the area.
At the same time, she added, the region is working to develop and provide more programs to help seniors and others requiring care to stay at home as long as possible, such as the recently launched Home First program.
Ron Foster, spokesman for Windsor Regional Hospital, said the Met campus emergency room had calmed down considerably by Thursday af-ternoon. Patients waiting to see specialists were sitting and chatting with friends or family members or trying to snooze while seated in the chairs.
“We just gotta wait,” Jessica Sartori said, seated next to her mother and waiting for preliminary test results. Sartori said that her abdominal pains became so bad last night that her family doctor recommended she go to the emergency room. She had been waiting about two hours.
“I just wish it could go faster,” Sartori’s mother Nicole said. “She’s in a lot of pain so it seems like a long time.”
In the hallway, Frabotta said she had to leave her husband, who is sick, at home so she could stay with her mother.
Frabotta said that she prefers to have her mother live with her rather than put her in a nursing home, but that means a trip to the emergency room sometimes.
“When the blood pressure goes up, you have no choice,” Frabotta said.