Health officials at Island Health are considering sending rehab patients to hotels due to growing pressure on the hospital system.
In an internal memo to rehab coordinators, Island Health is looking at moving people ready to be discharged out of the hospital and into a hotel before going home.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged in the legislature on Tuesday it is an “extremely challenging time in health-care but hospitals on Vancouver Island continue to be ready to serve patients who need care.
“At no time would any patient requiring acute care be sent to a hotel room, period,” Dix said.
“The memo that the member refers to was a memo to rehab coordinators who are in charge of discharge. We do, from time to time, support people who are ready for discharge, but there are varied challenges in either their homes or their circumstances that make it challenging for them to be discharged.”
The memo describes an “over census situation” in hospitals in Victoria including Royal Jubilee and Victoria General Hospital.
The internal email was first reported on by Capital Daily in Victoria.
In a statement, Island Health said it is an extremely busy time at hospitals but the hospitals are open and ready to take care of anyone who shows up in need of care.
The health authority adding there is not and never was a plan to put hospital patients requiring acute care in hotel rooms.
“Island Health occasionally uses hotel rooms to temporarily support people who no longer need acute care when their living situations are not stable or resolved – for example someone experiencing homelessness or waiting for a bed in another facility, but no longer requiring hospital care,” the statement reads.
“The memo is regarding discharge planning to address capacity challenges – not people who need acute care.”
The statement notes Saanich Peninsula Hospital was briefly (45 min) on ambulance diversion on April 24.
Patients arriving via ambulance were transferred to Victoria General Hospital. The SPH emergency department remained open for walk-in patients.
There are various issues compounding an already taxed hospital system.
A recent increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and staff missing work due to COVID-19 has put pressure on the hospitals.
Victoria is also experiencing a significant doctor shortage, with wait times to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic higher in the capital region than anywhere else in the province.
These situations are leading more people to go to emergency rooms to receive primary care.
A return to normal activities, including kids playing sports, has also led to more emergency room visits.
The final trend the health care system is seeing is an increase in treatments for those who were not diagnosed with issues during the height of the COVID pandemic.
“It is important to have transparency. It is very important to have transparency and to provide a proper assessment of the circumstances in our public health care system today,” Dix said.
“These measures of dealing with capacity in our health care system — we have been taking them for two years.”