Beds set to close at former Memorial Hospital site
February 06, 2012
By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life Staff
Sixty-two people who care for patients living at the former Memorial Hospital site have received layoff notices.
That's because half of the 60 beds at the facility — now known as the Sudbury Outpatient Centre — are due to close March 31. The rest of the beds are due to close a year later.
The facility cares for some of Health Sciences North's alternate level of care (ALC) patients. ALC patients are those who no longer require acute care, but cannot find placement in a long-term care facility or another community-based facility.
There are also currently 43 ALC patients being cared for at Health Sciences North's Ramsey Lake Health Centre.
Health Sciences North senior vice-president Joe Pilon said although staff members have been handed layoff notices, their chances of finding other positions at the hospital are good.
“We have lots of vacant positions,” he said. “We have opportunities for those staff to find other jobs within the organization.”
Pilon said the ALC patients occupying the Sudbury Outpatient Centre beds due to close at the end of March are in the process of being placed at local long-term care homes, or other appropriate facilities.
CUPE Local 1623 president Dave Shelefontiuk said his union represents the majority of the workers who have received layoff notices, which include personal support workers, dietary workers, scheduling clerks and ward clerks.
He said these Sudbury Outpatient Centre workers may, indeed, receive positions elsewhere at the hospital.
However, he said that's because Health Sciences North has intentionally put in a lot of temporary workers over the last few years. He said he fears the temporary workers will lose their jobs in favour of the workers who have received layoff notices.
These temporary workers are concerned about what's going to happen to them, Shelefontiuk said.
“They've been used to getting a paycheque for a year or two years now, and they may be out on the street,” he said. “The hospital may tell you we're not losing any positions, but technically we are.”
Beyond the risk to his members' jobs, Shelefontiuk said he's concerned the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is not living up to its promises to increase various types of community facilities and programs to reduce the number of ALC patients who end up in the hospital.
“We're going to be stuck having longer wait times in emerg and longer wait times for surgeries,” Shelefontiuk said.
“We're going to be back to square one. I'm really concerned about that. I'm concerned that the citizens of Sudbury are going to be stuck holding the bag again.”
North East LHIN CEO Louise Paquette said a lot has already been done to help seniors stay out of hospital.
These initiatives include a program where outreach nurses visit long-term care homes to provide care for seniors that would otherwise end up in the emergency department, and the opening of a specialized geriatric health program in Greater Sudbury.
A capital campaign is also underway to build supportive housing for seniors at Finlandia, she said.
“As we're realigning the services to meet the needs of this population group, we need to make sure we have the capacity in the community,” Paquette said.
“Those investments we're making in institutionalized care, we need to take that funding and make those investments in the community. We're at that transition stage right now. We're making the changes, we're building that capacity and providing options for seniors.”
Pilon said ALC patients “remain a concern” to Health Sciences North, especially in light of the bed closures.
However, the hospital has made significant steps to reduce its ALC patient population by putting in place outpatient programs that allow patients to go home earlier or avoid hospital admission in the first place, he said.
These include programs for those with congestive heart failure, complex diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Our goal is to try to keep everyone in their homes as best we can,” Pilon said.
When asked if there's any chance of keeping the Sudbury Outpatient Centre beds open, Paquette has a clear answer – no.
“It's a matter of providing the right care for those people, and that's community care,” she said.
Pilon said he realizes the Sudbury Outpatient Centre beds can't remain open.
“That's not the best use of that money,” he said.
“Community resources are a better use of the funding that the government has. It's going to be a challenge, but it's the right challenge. The right care for the right patient at the right place is something we all need to work towards.”
Source: Northern Life.ca