The Montfort hospital is the latest hospital in Ottawa to open a unit inside a seniors’ residence to help relieve overcrowding.
The hospital said Tuesday it had begun transferring some of its patients to a new 20-bed unit located at Beacon Heights Retirement Residence in Gloucester, about 4.5 kilometres away.
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Those who are being relocated off-site are all considered “alternative level of care” or ALC patients — a designation that refers to patients who no longer require acute hospital care.
Many ALC patients are elderly and waiting for an available long-term care room or help to return home, while others are waiting for services such as rehabilitation and complex continuing care.
In a statement, the Montfort hospital said the decision to relocate patients was made with “careful consideration” and focused on those whose acute care needs have been resolved, so they can safely be cared for elsewhere.
“The transfer to the residence will allow these patients to benefit from a living environment that is better suited to their current needs,” the hospital said in a press release.
The patients being transferred will be on the sixth floor of the retirement residence, the hospital said, and will remain Montfort patients — “ensuring they will have access to the appropriate level of care.” They will be treated by Montfort doctors, but nursing and care staff will be from the retirement home.
CEO Bernard Leduc said the changes will help free-up hospital beds for people who need to be admitted. The Montfort hospital, like others in Ottawa and across the province, has dealt with increasing emergency department wait times.
ALC patients have been a growing focus of hospitals and the Ontario government.
Last fall, the provincial government passed a piece of contentious legislation called the More Beds, Better Care Act, aimed at freeing up hospital beds by hastening the move of patients from hospital to long-term care. At the time, the province’s minister of long-term care said the change could make up to 1,500 hospital beds across the province available.
The law, making it so ALC patients could be moved to a long-term care home not of their choosing or face a fee of $400 a day, has been widely criticized and is the subject of a constitutional challenge by health-care advocates.
Meanwhile, other hospitals in Ottawa have, with provincial funding, opened off-site units in privately owned retirement or long-term care homes in recent years as part of an effort to lessen overcrowding. It is a trend that worries the Toronto-based Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.
Jane Meadus, a lawyer and advocate with the centre, argued that transitional units in retirement homes can fall into a grey area when it comes to standards regarding the care that will be provided. “It very much depends on how the unit is set up and staffed, and we are concerned when they are not fully staffed by the hospital,” she said.
Mélanie Dubé, the hospital’s vice-president of finance, said the unit has been designated part of the hospital by the province, which means Montfort has an obligation to provide the same level of care and services as it does at the main site. She said creation of the unit helps take some pressure off the short-staffed hospital.
In 2021, The Ottawa Hospital opened a 55-bed off-site unit at Extendicare West End Villa for ALC patients, one of the first such collaborations in the province. It has since expanded that unit.
At the time, hospital President and CEO Cameron Love called it a partnership “that we can build on going forward, creating more opportunities for collaborative care models in the future.”
Queensway Carleton Hospital, which moved some patients into a retrofitted hotel early in the pandemic, has since closed that off-site unit and opened one in a retirement home. The unit at Park Place retirement home in Ottawa’s Central Park neighbourhood, contains beds for 56 patients — the same number of patients as were earlier cared for in a renovated Kanata hotel.
Bruyère also opened an off-site transitional unit, at Greystone Village Retirement home.
Anna Greenberg, who is chief regional officer for the Toronto and eastern areas with Ontario Health, said the transitional care beds will provide “the right care in the right place at the right time. They will also provide an increased number of beds to enable improved patient flow across the system, at a time when more capacity is much needed.”