Bed closures at LMH as health authority shifts aging patients to residential care

Retired nurse says staff were told LMH will lose 12 beds, while FHA says actual numbers will depend on patient volumes

Langley Memorial Hospital (LMH) will close a number of hospital beds as a result of a Fraser Health Authority (FHA) decision to shift aging patients out of hospitals and into hundreds of planned new residential care beds.

Tasleem Juma, a spokesperson for the authority, said she was unable to provide an exact number of bed closures at the Langley hospital because it will depend on patient volume.

“In terms of bed numbers, these ebb and flow each day and each site will do what makes sense for their patient population,” Juma told The Times.

“What I can tell you is that, at Langley Memorial Hospital, these bed reductions will mean improving our infection control measures by converting some of our four-bed rooms into three-bed rooms.”

Juma said the FHA has already recruited and hired more staff for home health services for seniors.

“We are also increasing the number of nurse practitioners to better support seniors in the community and at the hospital,” Juma said.

A retired nurse told The Times that staff at LMH were informed 12 beds in the 203-bed hospital will be closed — eight surgical and four medical (for non-surgical cases).

They were advised of the closures earlier this month, said Lindsay Gri,  who is a retired Registered Nurse and former patient care co-ordinator.

Gri said LMH is the first hospital in the FHA to make the cuts (the FHA’s Juma could not confirm that when asked by The Times).

“It’s already started,” Gri said.

“They’re reducing two beds each week (at LMH). They haven’t got the resources in the community but they’re already closing the beds.”

Gri said the loss of the hospital beds will mean more patients occupying ER beds and more people going home from hospital sooner than they should.

The plan announced by the FHA will close 80 hospital beds at 10 hospitals over the next six months while simultaneously opening 400 new residential care beds.

The FHA said the region will see a net increase in combined residential and acute care beds and a net increase in jobs.

Ten new hospice beds are also being opened.

B.C. Nurses Union president Gayle Duteil opposed the plan, saying hospitals were already heavily congested before the planned shift in resources.

“Last week we saw a record high number of patients waiting for beds in wards,” Duteil said.

“Some patients were waiting in the ER for upwards of four hours just to be triaged. That is not safe patient care.”

She also questioned whether enough nurses are working in community care to handle the new patients.

Fraser has long pursued a “home is best” long-range strategy to decongest hospitals but that took on renewed urgency in 2013 whe n Health Minister Terry Lake ordered a review after the health region repeatedly failed to stay within its budget.

Fraser Health’s latest report card shows the region continues to far underperform its targets on how long patients stay in hospital as well as key measures of ER congestion.

— with files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press