Beds on the chopping block at Cobourg’s Northumberland Hills Hospital may receive a reprieve after the Central East Local Health Integration Network agreed today to enter into negotiations to fund 11 interim long term care beds and open up to eight more restorative beds.
This winter the community learned the hospital planned to balance its budget by eliminating 26 beds, closing its diabetes clinic and cutting all outpatient rehab services.
The CE LHIN board made it clear the funding was one-time only. The LHIN had looked for community proposals to take the patients who would likely be orphaned with the closing of these beds. There were no immediate facilities willing to take this on, however, a former Port Hope retirement home has expressed interest in renovating towards becoming a 20-bed convalescent care home.
While the LHIN is treating the two events separately, there is little doubt that the hospital beds may again be at risk once the Port Hope facility opens.
Funding to keep open the hospital’s existing interim long term care beds will come from the LHIN’s Aging at Home fund, although these funds will be incorporated into the hospital’s budget.
The funding became available when a retirement home in the region had decided it was not going to upgrade its facility to accommodate the new requirements of the Ministry of Health to accept Lakeridge Health’s alternate level of care (ALC) patients.
Some of those beds have also been reallocated to a Bowmanville retirement home with close ties to a nearby nursing home.
According to the LHIN, ALC patients who are in these beds will no longer be considered ALC for statistical purposes, as they will be receiving care in an appropriate setting. Why they were previously counted while in the same beds is an open mystery.
Last week the community held a rally in front of MPP Lou Rinaldi’s constituency office. Rinaldi came out to address the group, stating he was working on a plan to save the outpatient rehab services.
OPSEU had used the Freedom of Information process to secure any correspondence between the Ministry and NHH regarding the closure of the diabetes clinic.
Closed at the end of April, the clinic had served 2800 residents. While a Port Hope clinic said it was able to take 500 of these patients, it left 2300 Northumberland County residents without any diabetes support. Since then the Ministry has told doctors that patients can be referred to the Peterborough, Campbellford and Quinte hospitals. Quinte has also recently closed its diabetes outreach from its Picton site.
Suprisingly, OPSEU was told by the Minstry’s Access and Privacy office that no such correspondence existed on the diabetes clinic between the Ministry and NHH. How could the Ministry lose access to a program in an entire county and have no written correspondence with the hospital?
When OPSEU met with the Minister of Health’s policy advisor on this issue, she suggested that these patients could return to their doctors. However, the region’s doctors had been asking the hospital where they should be referring these patients.
During the meeting one of the board members expressed the hope that the community would view the Local Health Integration Network has having responded to their concerns. Clearly, with regards to Northumberland County, the LHIN still has a long way to go.
May 19th the Northumberland Hills Hospital issued a press release stating that all 110 of its beds would remain open due to the current lack of community alternatives for the hospital’s alternate level of care patients. The announcement will not alter the hospital’s original plan to cut its diabetes clinic and outpatient rehab services.