Ottawa and area hospital patients who no longer require acute-care treatment can now go to a 120-bed transitional unit at a new Ottawa retirement home. The unit will be managed and staffed by a private company.
"Within a period of three months we opened a medium-sized hospital. That is not an easy feat, to say the least," said Guy Chartrand, president of Bruyère Continuing Care, who's leading the project on behalf of all Ottawa hospitals.
I don't know that we have another choice. We need to provide the space for our patients. - Guy Chartrand, Bruyère Continuing Care
Over the past few months, the Greystone Village Retirement home, on the former Oblate lands in Old Ottawa East, has been retrofitted with nursing stations, showers, hospital beds and other facilities. Because of the pandemic, the home was unable to take in residents last April, when it was initially set to open.
Ontario's Ministry of Health has agreed to fund the unit until March 31, 2021. It will cost $14 million to run, according to Chartrand, who said he expects the transitional unit to remain open for "12 to 18 months or more."
Integrated Care Services, a division of Bayshore HealthCare, will hire and manage most staff at the facility, while Aramark will provide food and cleaning services.
"Given our current realities with regards to limitations on staffing, I don't know that we have another choice. We need to provide the space for our patients, and these are temporary measures," Chartrand said.
But Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, characterizes the initiative as the "privatization of public hospital services," calling it deeply disturbing.
"The handover of the management of the new site, that is deep privatization of what should be hospital services that are run on a public interest basis," said Mehra.
The coalition will be looking at legal options, Mehra said.
"I'm not sure that this is even legal. There are collective agreements that cover the workers, there are provisions around quality and staffing in hospitals. We'll be looking at all of those to see whether they are in compliance with their legal obligations."
The extra beds for so-called alternative level of care patients come as some hospitals in the region are running well over 100 per cent capacity. Many of the patients to be moved to the new unit will be waiting to go home or into long-term care, said Chartrand.
On Oct. 27, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the creation of up to 766 more beds at 32 hospitals and "alternate health facilities" across the province. The new unit at the Greystone residence is among those, according to Chartrand.
WATCH | Bruyère president says new site should alleviate pressure on existing hospitals:
"The Ottawa region has been under capacity for quite a while," he said. "This will hopefully make a positive difference in alleviating some of the pressure on the acute-care facilities."
Given the current strain on the health-care system, he said the plan is to fill the 120 beds within the month.