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Number of convalescent care beds to increase in Central LHIN

Unionville Home Society expects initiative to have strong systemic impact

Wednesday April 9, 2008 -- Michelle Strutzenberger

The number of convalescent care beds in the Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is increasing, with the first bed conversions beginning in early April.

Unionville Home Society is the first of two long-term care facilities to convert 15 of its existing long-term care beds to convalescent care beds.

Nancy Kula, president and CEO of Unionville Home Society, is excited about the initiative.

“This is one of those programs that has the potential to have such a systemic impact both from a utilization and health resources perspective and very much from a quality-of-life perspective for the folks that are involved in it,” she says.

The convalescent care program provides an opportunity for seniors and other people with disabilities who require it to recuperate in a slow-stream, rehabilitation setting before returning home.

Candidates for the program are people who are motivated to return to independent living in the community and have the ability to relearn the skills to do so. They generally have had surgery or some other medical event. People can stay in the program from a minimum of seven days to a maximum of 90 days.

There is considerable support for the bed conversion from the three hospitals in the region, Southlake Regional Health Centre, Markham Stouffville Hospital and York Central Hospital, as it will enable them to move alternate level care patients into the program and free up acute care space.

Cathy Szabo, executive director for the Central Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), says the CCAC is fully supportive of the program as well.

She points out that the convalescent care bed program has been highly utilized in the Central LHIN already. However, a challenge has been that it is not distributed evenly throughout the LHIN.

“(The expansion) will increase capacity for the program overall; it’s also targeted for those hospitals that have limited access because of where the program currently resides,” says Szabo.

A steering committee that includes representatives from the long-term care facilities, CCAC, three hospitals and St. Elizabeth Health Care is providing direction for the bed conversion of the two long-term care facilities.

Szabo credits the Central LHIN for moving the process along quickly in terms of approving the project and providing resources.

The project was allocated $200,000 to be used for modifications and start-up costs along with the recruitment for the case managers who will work with the homes in placing clients into the program.

The actual bed conversion began April 1 for Unionville Homes Society. It will take an estimated 90 days to reach a total conversion of 15 beds for the long-term care facility due to the current occupancy rate. The Maple Health Centre operated by the Regional Municipality of York, Long Term Care and Seniors Branch has been identified as a potential future site for expansion of the convalescent care program.

The CCAC and the homes will be tracking bed utilization, client satisfaction, discharge disposition and will attempt to track how long the clients stay in their home once they are discharged in an effort to quantify the benefit to the system.