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Montreal health boards consider partnering with private institutions to free up hospital beds

Two of Montreal's regional health boards are looking at various ways to house patients, including turning to private institutions to free up hospital beds.

The issue, the boards say, is that hospital beds are being occupied by patients who are on a waiting list for a room at a long-term care facility.

At the West Island Health Board, as many as 25 per cent of its hospital beds are being used by patients who no longer need acute care but who have nowhere else to go while they wait to get into an appropriate facility.

But the board has run out of facilities and space, said Isabelle Caron, who coordinates residential services for the West Island board.

"We know the population is aging, so at a certain point in time we had enough facilities for old people," she said, but no longer.

One challenge is that the condition of people in long-term care hospitals doesn't usually improve over time, leaving the boards, today, scrambling for solutions.

"In the meantime, we're looking for other alternatives, places that look like a home with a living environment for old people because we know hospital settings are not the best for them," said Caron.

She suggested they could partner with private institutions or repurpose other facilities.

At the Centre-Sud Health Board, which covers much of the city's downtown, the number of beds occupied by patients waiting for a long-term care facility is even higher at 30 per cent and the challenges are the same.

"As of yesterday we had 110 patients waiting on hospital beds, to be transferred and the vast majority of them were either waiting for a bed in a CHSLD, or mental health housing," said spokesperson Jean-Nicoas Aube.

"Each patient is unique, and requires a specific approach," he said.

"The government is building more and more hospital beds and long-term care facilities, however, the population is aging and so it's impossible to keep up."

Patient advocate Paul Brunet says the only way to address the shortage is more government investment in home care services, to keep people living in their homes for much longer.

"Doctors visiting patients –guess what. We would save a lot of beds, and we wouldn't be stuck with patients in hospital beds waiting for beds in long-term facilities," said Brunet.

"It's been a major issue for decades," he added, "and one that no government has been able to find the right solution for."


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