Rapidly Aging Population Straining Hospital Capacity
Prince George, BC – With more and more seniors choosing to remain in northern BC, the region is actually aging faster than the rest of the province and that’s one of the factors putting a strain on capacity at the University Hospital at Northern BC.
Northern Health’s Chief Operating Officer, Michael McMillan, says people used to work here and retire somewhere else, but that’s no longer happening. “We’re catching up to where Vancouver and White Rock, and Victoria and Kelowna are and that increased aging is pushing demand for acute care.”
In January and February of last year, the 210-bed UHNBC found itself bursting at the seams with a daily average in the range of 260 patients. At last night’s meeting, McMillan updated City Council on Northern Health’s initiatives to deal with the crunch, including: the quick renovation and opening of a previously unused floor in the Gateway Lodge that provided 15 residential care beds and 11 convalescent/respite care beds; team-based care for those with complex needs, and the rapid mobilization of home support.
McMillan said the efforts have capped demand in the 220-bed range, which is a huge improvement over last year, but there’s no doubt more beds will be will be needed in the next five to 10 years. “We’re going to need more beds at some point in the future and we’re in the process of defining exactly what that looks like – what type of beds, what capacity we need.”
He admitted there is a growing need for residential care beds and but declined to give numbers to 250News saying, while preliminary research has shown a significant shortfall locally, the information has yet to be presented to Northern Health’s Board and the Health Ministry.
McMillan and Northern Health’s President and CEO, Cathy Ulrich, will meet with ministry officials early next month to ‘start the conversation’ on capacity needs in the north. He said the process of detailing capacity to government is a significant one and Northern Health has been has been updating the ministry on the issues, the immediate and medium term plans, and the impacts. “We’re just giving them another update and part of it will be the preliminary bed numbers.”