Islanders wait twice as long as the national average to move from hospital to long-term care

·4 min read
According to statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Islanders waited an average of 43 days to move from hospital to long-term care, second only to Nova Scotia's 52 days.  (Shutterstock - image credit)
According to statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Islanders waited an average of 43 days to move from hospital to long-term care, second only to Nova Scotia's 52 days. (Shutterstock - image credit)

A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that Prince Edward Island has the second-longest wait times for patients who need to move from the hospital to long-term care, community care, home care or other supportive housing.

Islanders waited an average of 43 days for a bed, almost twice as long as the national average of 24 days. Nova Scotia topped the list with an average wait of 52 days.

"Anytime that you have a senior occupying a bed in an acute care facility, it should be very concerning," said Cecil Villard, executive director of the P.E.I. Association of Community Long Term Care.

"It should be concerning for the hospital, it should be concerning to government, because I think to me it speaks to a failure that we have created as a consequence of not really building on our home-care program and our community care programs."

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

Villard said he believes P.E.I. should work harder to build capacity in the system to better care for seniors at home, whether that means help with grass cutting or cooking meals. He said the system should intervene earlier in cases where seniors are beginning to lose capacity to care for themselves in their home.

"I think that they're trying to get there, I just think that it's considerably slower than we would expect, particularly in light of the fact that we are dealing with an ever-expanding, growing population of seniors," he said. "So the problem just exacerbates itself going forward. So we do need to find ways in which we can begin to respond now."

155 empty long-term care beds

Health P.E.I. says it believes things are already improving. Chief operating officer Corrine Rowswell said the CIHI report used data from 2021, and P.E.I. is already doing better in 2022.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"We know that most places it's trending down, partially because we have implemented a provincial bed-flow model that ensures we are using all of our beds quickly, but it's some of investments we've made in community-based programs that are currently contribute to that decreasing length of stay," Rowswell said.

Both Rowswell and Villard agree acute-care hospitals are not the best setting for seniors waiting for care. They're noisy, overstimulating and don't offer the services seniors need to be happy and get back on their feet. Hospitals are also far more expensive than any other kind of care.

And there is capacity in P.E.I.'s system, sort of. Health P.E.I. confirms there are approximately 155 unoccupied licensed long-term care beds in public and private facilities in P.E.I., but they remain empty because of a shortage of staff, particularly registered nurses, to care for patients who would occupy those beds.

"It's really having the staff in the right place," said Rowswell. "Ensuring our long-term care facilities are staffed so that all beds can be occupied ... We've done investments in our long-term care placements assessment through a new technology recently. And then, it's also ensuring that while people are waiting that they're getting really good care."

She said Health P.E.I is recruiting for those positions. It is also looking at reimplementing restorative care in all of its facilities.

However, she said there will always be waits.

"Care at home is becoming more and more complex," Roswell said.  "I think the majority of people, if you ask them where they want to be for their senior years, they say they want to be at home with supports. Building that up has not always been as robust in P.E.I. as it could have been. Now, there is definite attention on building that service."

Health P.E.I. confirmed at the end of July, the wait list in P.E.I. for long-term care was 189 people.

  • 119 are waiting at home.           

  • 53 are waiting in Island hospitals.

  • 17 other — community care facilities.

The issue of waits in acute-care settings for long-term care is "a real priority for Health P.E.I." Rowswell said.