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This article was published 30/1/2019 (262 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Long waits for personal care home beds in Winnipeg appear to be a thing of the past — at least for now.
This week, there are 165 vacant beds in the city's 38 licensed care homes, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said. That's a vacancy rate of about three per cent. It's been that way since last March.
In the past, the vacancy rate has been less than one per cent, with as many as 100 or more seniors taking up beds in local hospitals while waiting to be placed in long-term care, and another 200 or more at home waiting for a spot.
The WRHA says several recent developments have given the system breathing room. In the fall of 2017, the local health system began to offer enhanced home care for high-needs seniors with a view to keeping them in their homes longer. It also developed a rapid-response nursing program to assist patients in their homes following a discharge from hospital.
Also, in 2017, the WRHA signed a two-year contract with a private company, All Seniors Care, to provide transitional care for patients leaving hospital The company opened 65 transitional beds in Winnipeg at a cost of $4.6 million per year. Patients who are unable to return home are placed in a personal care home or some other long-term care facility.
Krista Williams, chief health operations officer with the WRHA, said these initiatives have dramatically reduced wait lists.
"It's a combination of all those enhanced community supports that have really led to the decrease in the number of people waiting for PCH beds and an increase in vacancies because we're better supporting individuals in the community," she said.
A 2017 study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information estimated that 20 to 30 per cent of long-term care residents don't need to be in such institutions, and the decision to place patients in a nursing home is often arrived at prematurely.
It appears that the WRHA is making some progress in tackling that issue. A year ago, it announced that it had sharply reduced the number of patients taking up hospital beds while waiting for a care home bed. This week, that number sits at 25. It has been four times that amount.
Williams said the reason there are any seniors in hospital at all these days while awaiting a PCH bed is because families are looking for an opening in a particular home. If the wait will be long, the institution will work with the family to find an interim location, she said.
There are about 100 seniors living at home who are waiting for a personal care home spot. Again, the main reason is that clients and their families have their sights set on a particular location. Williams said if a client's condition rapidly worsens, the WRHA can work with the family to find an interim care home.
Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, applauded local efforts to ensure that only those who really need a personal care home bed are admitted.
She said the current three per cent vacancy rate in Winnipeg care homes "is probably a little more than we'd like to see," but the beds are unlikely to go unused for very long.
With a rapidly aging population, the need for care homes beds is only going to rise, Legeros said.
"Outside of Winnipeg there continue to be very, very long wait lists for personal care home beds," she said, particularly in the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority.
"Outside of Winnipeg there continue to be very, very long wait lists for personal care home beds." - Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba
She said there have been talks between the two health authorities about transferring patients to Winnipeg while the city has surplus spaces, and that has occurred in a few instances.
Winnipeg has 5,665 beds in 38 licensed care homes.
In 2013, the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy published a study saying Manitoba will need an additional 5,100 to 6,300 personal care home or supportive housing beds by 2036. The same report said Winnipeg was unlikely to begin facing a sharp demand for beds until 2021.
Critics say the Pallister government is moving too slowly to ensure new PCH spaces are created. The government has set a cap on how much money it will contribute to a new facility, which has forced some projects to go back to the drawing board.
An expansion of Holy Family Home in Winnipeg will add 41 beds to the system by spring. A government spokesman said Wednesday that the province is reviewing "active proposals" for an additional 360 beds in Steinbach, Carman and Winnipeg.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.