A program credited with cutting down on hospital stays and ER visits among chronically ill patients has been axed with little notice.
Pam Pyke said nursing staff left her a message Wednesday saying the Hospital Home Team (HHT) was shutting down and her 88-year-old mother Muriel would be reassigned to different care workers.
Muriel’s currently on oxygen and in respiratory therapy. Pyke credits HHT’s "continuity of care" with her mother’s improved health. Now, she said, "it won’t be the same."
Pyke said her mother’s care workers only got the news this week.
"These people did not know this was coming," she said. Now, it’s a "scramble" to get patients reassigned.
On Thursday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) seemed to share in the confusion.
When asked if the program had been cut in an attempt to meet the province’s directive that the WRHA find $83 million in annual budgetary savings before the end of the month, senior executive Réal Cloutier responded with a statement that did not actually mention HHT.
The authority "is exploring a variety of options," he said, and a "plan to achieve the budget mandate is being finalized."
In a second statement, Cloutier said an undisclosed number of HHT case co-ordinators had "taken other jobs in the region" and, as a result, patients were being transferred to other care providers.
In a third statement, Cloutier confirmed the program was being cut.
In February 2013, the province gave the WRHA funding of $1.7 million annually to support the program through to March 31, 2017.
"Evaluations of the project didn’t yield hoped-for results," Cloutier said.
The decision came as a disappointment to Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, which represents the home care workers.
"I don’t understand the logic," Gawronsky said. "Yet another frontline service is being eliminated."
The home care team started as a pilot project in 2012 in northeast Winnipeg. A doctor, nurse and co-ordinator teamed up to treat 10 chronically ill patients in their own homes. The idea was that providing in-home care could cut down on costly hospital visits and improve quality of life. It was so successful — hospital admissions dropped by more than half during the pilot — that the province and WHRA teamed up to create the Hospital Home Team. Since its start four years ago, roughly 550 Winnipeggers have been treated at home.
Now, those patients are being transitioned out of the program. Pyke worries about what the change will mean for her mother.
"I don’t want to slam the people who were doing it before," she said, but "they didn’t have the resources."