Resuming admissions at Rainycrest offers slow relief

The resumption of admissions at Rainycrest Home for the Aged here last week is good news for local seniors and their families, but it will be several months before the effects are felt.
“With Rainycrest being closed, it caused us to accept a lot of patients that should have gone to Rainycrest, so it’s really backed us up,” noted Wayne Woods, CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc.
“With it being open, hopefully we can get these people into the proper facility,” he added.
In 2003, when admissions at Rainycrest were suspended for more than four months, 26 people waiting for long-term care were admitted to hospital.
This year, admissions at Rainycrest were suspended for seven months. And once again, La Verendrye Hospital here is feeling the pinch.
“We have 23 patients who are in hospital beds who need to be in a long-term care bed,” said Liz Clark, the hospital’s assistant executive director for patient services.
As of Tuesday, 17 were in the Continuing Care Unit (CCU), four were in acute care, and the others at the health centre in Rainy River. That’s about one-third of the available beds at the hospital.
While the exact numbers change on a daily basis, the overall situation remains the same.
“We’ve been in excess of 20 for some time now,” Clark noted.
When Rainycrest is not accepting new admissions, seniors who are not well enough to live independently at home are admitted to La Verendrye’s CCU, which generally is reserved for patients requiring chronic care.
Chronic care focuses on rehabilitation like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. For example, a person who suffers a stroke can be rehabilitated, eventually returning to their home when they are healthy enough to do so.
The CCU is not meant as a permanent home. When the unit’s beds are taken up by patients waiting for a long-term care bed, people who need the chronic care cannot be moved.
“If we didn’t have people waiting for long-term care, we would have enough beds to serve the community,” Clark said.
While the lifting of the suspension on admissions at Rainycrest is a step in the right direction, it will not change the situation overnight, Clark stressed.
“It’ll be months before we see a significant relief of pressure on the hospital beds,” she remarked.
This is partly due to the long waiting list for Rainycrest. There are people in the community who also are waiting to be admitted.
The Kenora-Rainy River Community Care Access Centre priorizes people on the waiting list according to need.
“Just because someone is in a hospital bed doesn’t mean they have a greater need over someone in the community,” Clark explained.
Also, Riverside, which was put in charge of Rainycrest on an interim basis back in March, has developed a gradual admission process for the home.
“We will need to handle the admission process very delicately,” Woods said in a press release last week. “We do not want to overwhelm the home and we also want to remain in compliance.
“We plan to admit one patient the first week and then increase it to two admissions per week for the succeeding weeks until all the beds are filled,” he noted.
There currently are 14 vacant beds at Rainycrest, as well as another 10 interim ones. Woods said he is waiting for word from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on whether they can fill the interim beds.
Meanwhile, the pressure on the hospital is not letting up.
“Our utilization co-ordinator gets requests almost daily,” Clark said, regarding people in the community caring for elderly parents who no longer can provide the care they need.
“People just can’t cope in the community. It’s been a very difficult few months,” she admitted.
In related news, Riverside’s board of directors has decided to seek permission to send a representative to a future meeting of the Rainy River District Municipal Association to talk to municipal leaders about the future of Rainycrest.
The Ministry of Health assumed control of the home on March 18 and appointed Riverside as interim administrator.
According to the Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act, a permanent solution to the home’s administration must be found within one year of the ministry assuming control.
In March, both Riverside and the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board—as well as Extendicare, a private health care company—submitted proposals to the ministry for running the long-term care facility.
It will be up to district municipalities to decide what is to be done with Rainycrest.