The hospital is currently overcapacity on inpatient units, with more people requiring beds than the facility has space for.
“The other day we had, I think, as many as 14 patients who were awaiting admission,” Prince Albert Parkland Health Region communications officer Doug Dahl said. “But there was no bed space up in the inpatient units.”
Individuals waiting to be admitted to inpatient care are increasingly finding themselves relegated to available beds in the emergency room. But this stop-gap measure has disrupted the normal flow of patients through the system.
“Because of how full the hospital is, if there’s somebody who comes into the emergency department and needs to be admitted to the hospital, but there’s no bed to put them in, they stay in the emergency department and utilize a bed there -- which means there’s less space to take care of people coming to the emergency department,” Dahl said. “So that then reduces the ability to flow people through the emergency department who don’t require admission to the hospital.”
Those who come to the emergency room with a non-emergency or non-urgent health concern can expect to wait more than two hours to see a physician. The hospital suggests that such individuals may prefer to visit a local walk-in clinic.
No particular issue or illness is responsible for the glut of inpatients.
“It’s not like we’re noticing a big flu outbreak or anything like that,” Dahl said. “There are a variety of issues that people are coming to. Some of them have chronic conditions, some of them have multiple (diagnoses) and really need to be cared for.”
Lack of space for inpatients has become a recurring problem for the hospital. Dahl outlined a number of factors that have contributed to the current situation.
You want to make sure that people do have support, so that if they go home or go to another setting that the care level is what is required. - Doug Dahl
One of the biggest challenges is moving people out of inpatient beds who no longer require hospital care, but may require other forms of attention such as long-term care. Not all patients have the personal support network that might provide such care at home.
“Sometimes there is difficulty in having enough support for them to be able to go home,” Dahl said. “So they end up staying in the hospital longer than is required for the type of care they need. But if there isn’t any other place for them to go, we can’t really send them out without making sure that they are able to be cared for properly.”
The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region has approximately 600 long-term care beds, all of which are usually full. There are almost 70 names on the waiting list, which has grown substantially in recent years.
One hopeful sign is a new long-term care facility presently under construction in Prince Albert. Upon completion, the project will increase the region’s inpatient capacity by 26 beds.
In the meantime, the hospital is working with physicians, patients and their families to ensure that individuals are properly cared for after being discharged.
“You want to make sure that people do have support, so that if they go home or go to another setting that the care level is what is required,” Dahl said. “Otherwise they may end up coming back to the hospital in a more severe condition, and we want to make sure we avoid that as well.”