Hospitals are going to be overrun with people who should more properly be in long-term care facilities unless more of the latter aren’t built soon, says the chair of a Terrace-based charitable health care foundation.
Already up to half of the 33 available acute care beds at Mills Memorial Hospital are occupied by seniors waiting for a bed at Terraceview Lodge and that reality is only going to grow as the elderly population increases, warns Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation Chair Ron Bartlett in a letter sent to seven northwestern municipal and First Nations governments.
It’s a ratio that will continue when the new Mills Memorial Hospital opens within two years with its up to 40 general care beds, he added.
Bartlett said the need for long-term care in the northwest will be more pronounced because in addition to the general wave of aging baby boomers, population statisticians are predicting there will be a second wave of Indigenous-only boomers in 10 years time.
But with a shortage of long-term care beds, seniors will instead be in hospitals which are not equipped for the services they need.
“They call it warehousing,” said Bartlett about his letter. “The wait can be two years for a place at Terraceview.”
“Hospitals are not designed to take care of seniors. They do awesome work getting sick people well and discharging them, but they’re not equipped to help seniors. There’s no recreation.
“There’s no personal care.”
Bartlett spoke of his stepfather, a diabetic who had both legs amputated and who spent a year and a half in hospital while waiting for a long-term care bed to open up.
“My dad told me he thought it would be worse than prison. There was no recreation. He was put into a room with a diaper and strapped to a wheelchair all day long. Where’s your dignity? And who was making the decision to take people’s dignity away?”
Bartlett acknowledged the growth in home-based care so seniors can stay in familiar surroundings for longer and assisted care where seniors receive a base level of personal care.
He said the concern over the lack of long-term care beds grew when the foundation was given to understand there won’t be any new facilities for seniors in the near future.
“There’s families now that will take their seniors to Terraceview where they have a respite care program.
“And some of them will just refuse to bring them back home. It’s just too much [for them]. Others will bring their them to the emergency ward and refuse to bring them back home.”
Bartlett said the letter was written to inform local governments and First Nations of the situation so that they would urge senior governments to take action.
In addition to the local governments and First Nations, copies went to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, incoming Northern Health Authority CEO Ciro Panessa and First Nations Health Authority CEO Joe Gallagher and its chair, Lydia Hwitsum.