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Winnipeg's long-awaited personal care home bed seems to be a thing of the past – at least for now.
This week, there are 165 free beds in 38 licensed homes in the city, said Vinnipeg Regional Health Authority. This is about 3% vacancy rate. This has been the case since March last year.
Previously, vacancies have been less than one percent, and up to 100 or more seniors in the local hospitals were sleeping, waiting for long-term placement, and another 200 or more at home waiting for their beds.
WRHA says that several recent events have made the system breathing space. In the autumn of 2017, the local health system began to offer enhanced home care for senior university students to keep them longer. It also developed a rapid response program to help patients at home after leaving the hospital.
Also in 2017, WRHA signed a two-year contract with a private company All Seniors Care to provide temporary care to patients leaving the hospital. The company opened 65 transition beds in Winnipeg, paying $ 4.6 million a year. Patients who are unable to return home are placed in a personal care home or in another long-term care facility.
Christ William, chief health officer with WRHA, said that these initiatives have dramatically reduced the waiting list.
"It is a combination of the support of all these advanced communities, which has really led to a reduction in the number of people waiting for PCH beds and an increase in the number of job vacancies, because we better support people in society," she said.
A Canadian Health Information Institute 2017 study estimates that 20-30 percent of long-term care residents do not need to be in such institutions, and the decision to place patients in care homes is often premature.
WRHA seems to have made some progress in addressing this issue. A year ago, it announced that it had rapidly reduced the number of patients receiving hospital beds while waiting for a care home. This week, this figure is 25 times. It's four times bigger.
William said that the reason why these days have any seniors in hospital is waiting for a PCH bed because families are looking for a particular home. If waiting is long, the institution will work with the family to find a temporary location, she said.
The house is home to about 100 seniors waiting for their personal care. The main reason for this is that customers and their families have places in a particular location. Williams said if the customer's condition is getting worse, WRHA can work with the family to find temporary care.
Janit Legeros, Managing Director of Manitoba's Long Term & Continuing Care Association, welcomed local efforts to ensure that only those who really need a personal care home are admitted.
She said that the current three percent vacancy rate at Winnipeg Care Home "is probably a little more than we'd like to see," but the beds are unlikely to be used for a very long time.
With a rapidly aging population, the need for care homes for beds will increase, says Legeros.
"Outside Winnipeg, there are still very, very long waiting lists for personal care home beds," she said, especially at Interlake-Eastern Regional Health.
"Outside Winnipeg, there are still very, very long waiting lists for personal care home beds." – Jan Legeros, Executive Director of Manitoba Long Term & Continuing Care Association
She said there had been talks between the two health authorities about moving patients to Winnipeg while there was a surplus in the city, and that was the case in some cases.
Winnipeg has 5765 beds in 38 licensed care homes.
In 2013, the Manitoba Health Policy Center published a study saying that by 2036 Manitoba will need an additional 5,100 to 6,300 personal care homes or supportive home beds. The same report says that Winnipeg is unlikely to have a sharp rise in demand for beds by 2021.
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