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Understanding Alzheimer’s: Part 3 of 3

Mario Paluzzi, director of communications at the Sault Area Hospital, acknowledged that the SAH has not been able to move alternate level of care patients transferred from the old Plummer Hospital to the new hospital one year ago, “to more appr

Mario Paluzzi, director of communications at the Sault Area Hospital, acknowledged that the SAH has not been able to move alternate level of care patients transferred from the old Plummer Hospital to the new hospital one year ago, “to more appropriate settings in the time frame we anticipated.”

He reported that as of late February 2014, there were 93 alternate level care patients occupying beds at the SAH, most awaiting supportive housing or assisted living locations.

Paluzzi emailed that eight of those patients were waiting for placement in Complex Continuing Care within a unit of the hospital.

“The rest are either waiting for placement elsewhere in the community, or for services to be set-up in their homes so they can return there,” Paluzzi shared.

He added that there were a number of patients waiting assessment by the Community Care Access Centre to determine where they should be going.

Paluzzi said that he did not have specific information on how many of those ALC patients were dealing with brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia illnesses.

He pointed out, however, that because health care has improved dramatically over the last two generations, people today are living well beyond 65 years.

“We’re keeping people healthier and alive longer, but ultimately as we get to a certain age health problems do arise,” he said. “Something needs to be done on a more comprehensive scope to deal with what some are calling a health care tsunami as the population ages.”

Paluzzi said the the SAH was optimistic that 50 additional long-term care beds would soon be available for some of those ALC patients in the City.

“There is a proponent who made a request for proposal sometime ago who is waiting on the Ministry of Health to grant license approvals,” he said. “We hope that [these long-term care spaces] will be open by the end of March or early April.”

Paluzzi said that the hospital’s beds currently are fully occupied, and that situation has put an added burden on the SAH emergency department where admitted patients, up to 20 or 30 some days, were waiting for hospital bed spaces to become available.

Paluzzi said that wait-times in the emergency department for non-admitted patients is below the Provincial average, but wait-times for admitted patients is above the average.

He said admitted patients are spending up to two days in the emergency department waiting for a hospital bed to become available.

“The ALC patients are occupying beds, and we’ve had to make other accommodations, and it is a concern for us right now,” he said. “If we had those [long-term care] beds in the community, it would certainly go a long way towards removing what is now a bottleneck that manifests itself in the emergency department with too many patients there waiting to find a bed elsewhere in the hospital.”

Paluzzi emphasized, however, that the SAH is not turning its back on, or making ALC patients a scapegoat.

“We’re here to treat the sick and those in need, but the irony is in many respects, some of the patients awaiting long-term or specific care are not best served in the hospital setting,” Paluzzi said.

He said that long-term care facilities and staff are better equipped and trained to deal with the aging population who often require specialized approaches.

Paluzzi said while Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are challenging concerns, “We need to be consulting with the Province, the Local Health Integration Network, and health care professionals to put together a broader, comprehensive strategy for the aging population generally across Canada.”

On a positive note, Paluzzi said the Sault now is in a favourable position where most people have a family care provider.

He said, however, that the Sault paradoxically is among the worse in Ontario for timely access to those health care professionals under 48 hours.

Paluzzi said he did not have an explanation for the situation, but speculated that the opportunity for patients to see their family care provider after hours or on weekends is quite limited, so the emergency department, which is always open, becomes the default alternative.

Paluzzi did give credit to the Group Health Centre, and the Superior Family Health Team in Algoma for their assistance with what has been a busy time in the emergency department.

“We have worked closely with them in the last while, and they have made significant efforts to see their patients within 24 to 48 hours. That has helped to lower the number of visits here. They deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Understanding Alzheimer's Part 1 of 3

Understanding Alzheimer's Part 2 of 3